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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 736

Additional papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, 1857-19 81 (inclusive), 1912-1971 (bulk)


Additional papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, Democratic Party activist and social reformer, include files on Massachusetts child welfare organizations, League of Women Voters material, and personal and family correspondence


  • Creation: 1857-19 81
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1912-1971


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Dorothy Kirchwey Brown 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.


21.89 linear feet ((52 file boxes, 1 half file box) plus 2 folio folders, 3 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 14 photograph folders, 3 objects)

These addenda to the papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown were previously known as 1662--79-M192 (preliminary inventory created in November 1979) and 81-M200--81-M234 (preliminary inventory created in January 1982). In 2012 the two groups of papers were combined, with like materials arranged together and more fully described. Materials required significant preservation measures; some were rehoused when necessary and all were given new folder numbers.

These papers document Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's activities for social betterment, particularly in the areas of maternal care and child welfare, child labor legislation, prison reform, and other progressive causes. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown was extremely active in Democratic Party politics, and her correspondence is rife with Democratic politicians at all levels in Massachusetts and the United States. Correspondence, writings, and other material document Brown's work with the national and Massachusetts Leagues of Women Voters in the 1920s and 1930s. Extensive family correspondence, particularly with her husband LaRue Brown and her sister Freda Kirchwey, addresses personal issues such as marriage difficulties, death of several young children, navigating issues with aging parents, and monetary issues. General correspondence include letters from friendships that spanned decades, documenting women's lives from youth to old age; political activism; life in England during and after World War II; etc.

In addition to Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's own papers, the collection includes papers of her husband, Herman LaRue Brown (known as LaRue), her mother-in-law Eleanor "Nellie" LaRue Brown, and some Kirchwey family members. LaRue Brown's papers are mainly correspondence and detailed travel scrapbooks; Nellie LaRue Brown's papers include published and unpublished poetry and prose writings.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1896-1976 (#1.1-5.3, FD.1, PD.1-PD.5), includes Brown's childhood writing and material from her years at Horace Mann and Barnard College; memorabilia and photographs of her daughter Eleanor; travel files and diaries; and photographs. Documentation of Brown's education includes grades, yearbooks, diplomas, essays, and photographs. A scrapbook (#3.7-4.4) holds correspondence, dance cards, memorabilia, etc. A travel diary describes her trip to Germany and Switzerland in 1912. Several folders of memorabilia and photographs document the brief life of Brown's daughter Eleanor, who died at the age of two. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, LARUE FAMILY AND HERMAN LARUE BROWN, 1857-1966 (#5.4-14.6, F+D.1, OD.1, PD.6-PD.10), includes correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, and educational documents of LaRue Brown, his mother Eleanor "Nellie" LaRue Brown, and other members of the LaRue family. The series is arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, LaRue family, 1857-1932 (5.4-9.3, F+D.1, OD.1, PD.6), includes correspondence; poetry; diplomas and schoolwork; and deeds belonging to members of LaRue Brown's family. The bulk of material in the series is that of LaRue Brown's mother, Eleanor "Nellie" LaRue Brown. James M. LaRue and his wife "Nannie" lived in Kentucky, where their daughter Nellie attended Louisville Female High School, and trained to be a teacher at Louisville Training School. She married George H. Brown in 1882(?). In addition to teaching, Nellie wrote poetry and prose, some of which was published in local and national newspapers. Nellie Brown's poetry and short stories are well represented here; also included is correspondence with her husband. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Herman LaRue Brown, ca.1885-1966 (#9.4-14.6, PD.7-PD.10), contains personal correspondence, travel scrapbooks, and other papers of Herman LaRue Brown (1883-1969), Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's husband. The travel scrapbooks are accounts of LaRue and Dorothy's journeys together, and are mostly assembled on loose-leaf paper, and are a mix of photographs, maps, clippings, and typed travelogues and itineraries. Correspondence is mainly personal, though correspondents are often people LaRue Brown encountered in professional contexts as well. LaRue Brown's aunt, J.M. LaRue, called "g" or "Gee," kept up a lively correspondence with her nephew. See Series III, Subseries A (#14.7-22.4) for correspondence between LaRue and Dorothy Brown. The majority of LaRue Brown's papers are held by the Harvard Law School Library. The subseries is arranged alphabetically, with travel scrapbooks listed chronologically.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1866-1981 (#14.7-39.6, PD.11-PD.13), includes letters Dorothy Kirchwey Brown received from family members, professional contacts, and friends. Of note are extensive letters from her sister Freda Kirchwey, as well as from Evans and Michael Clark, Freda Kirchwey's husband and son. Equally extensive are letters from her husband LaRue Brown. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown kept up correspondence with many of her friends over several decades, thus some folders contain lifelong documentation of friends in the United States and England. The series is arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, Family, 1881-1981 (#14.7-22.4, PD.11), includes letters between Dorothy Kirchwey Brown and LaRue Brown, as well as letters between Kirchwey family members. The majority is Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's incoming correspondence; letters written by Brown are identified where they exist. Letters to Dorothy from LaRue begin with their courtship leading up to their marriage in November 1915. Most of the rest of the letters are from periods of time when they were separated because of LaRue Brown's work for the United States government, such as in 1919 when he was in Europe working on the World War I peace treaty. Some letters go into detail about their marriage difficulties (#15.10).

The Kirchwey family letters include letters sent to Dorothy, some while she was still a child, from her parents, maternal grandfather, and paternal aunts Mary and Clara. Most of the letters are to Dorothy from her sister Freda and her brother Karl. Dorothy and Freda were close, and in some years wrote several times a week. These letters detail Freda's experiences as a wife and mother; her professional work with The Nation; and worldwide travel. Freda, whose first son died before he was a year old, wrote a particularly touching letter to Dorothy on the occasion of Eleanor's birth (#18.11). Michael Clark's letters to Dorothy Kirchwey Brown discuss his relationship with his parents, his work with the American Field Service during World War II, and his work as a journalist with the New York Times following the war, when he was stationed in Paris and North and West Africa.

Karl Kirchwey, Dorothy's older brother, had two sons, Karl Jr., and George W., with his first wife, Helen. He had two more children, Diana and Christopher (known as Kim), with his second wife, Prunella Bodkin. Dorothy stayed close to Helen and Prunella for many years; more letters from them can be found in Subseries B. George W. Kirchwey had a daughter, Catherine, from his first marriage, and two sons, Karl and George, with his second wife "Dougie." Letters from all these Kirchweys can be found in this subseries. The subseries also includes a few folders of other Kirchwey family material, as well as condolence letters received by Dorothy from friends after the death of her parents and siblings. Of particular note is Freda Kirchwey's The Mother's Register (#19.13), a baby book which records information about her husband Evans Clark, as well as her children Brewster and Michael. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and chronologically thereunder.

Subseries B, General, 1866-1981 (#22.5-39.6, PD.12-PD.13), includes letters sent to Dorothy and LaRue Brown by friends. Dorothy Brown maintained friendships with many women over long periods of time; this subseries includes decades of letters from some of her friends. Texas politician Minnie Fisher Cunningham wrote Dorothy extensive letters, which are especially revealing about her years working in Washington, DC. In addition to enjoying lengthy friendships with her peers, Dorothy Brown was often a confidante to (and sometimes financial supporter of) the children of her friends, who themselves often had decades-long correspondence with Brown. Most of these men and women called her "Aunt" Dorothy. Both Janet Thompson Burns, daughter of Dorothy's college friend Margaret Thompson, and Terry Marsden Ray wrote detailed letters about the difficult breakups of their marriages in the late 1960s. Some correspondents are British, and many of their letters from after World War II reveal conditions of scarcity in the country. The Browns's sojourns in London introduced them to several upper-class and accomplished British friends; both George Lloyd-Jacob and Cecil Carr were knighted later in life.

Letters throughout the subseries describe political work on behalf of women and children during the 1920s and 1930s; United States national and states elections; marriage, divorce, and childrearing practices over the middle part of the twentieth century; international travel; popular culture and consumption of mass media; etc. The majority of the correspondence is filed alphabetically by surname; correspondents whose surname could be not be identified are filed chronologically. Brown kept some of her correspondence foldered by subject - mainly letters of congratulations or sympathy. The series is arranged with alphabetical files followed by chronological files.

Series IV, PROFESSIONAL, 1910-1981 (#39.7-53.6, F+D.2, PD.14), includes Brown's speeches and writings, and files documenting her work with the League of Women Voters, as well as her service on many Massachusetts commissions dedicated to youth and child welfare and penal reform. The series is arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, Writings and speeches, 1915-1961, n.d. (#39.7-40.7), includes Brown's published articles, speeches, and notes and correspondence about both. See also (#48.23) for "The State of the League," the 1940 Massachusetts League of Women Voters convention address. The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries B, Organizations and subject files, 1910-1981 (#40.8-53.6, F+D.2, PD.14), includes minutes, correspondence, notes, reports, printed material, etc. Material in this subseries documents the political and advocacy work Dorothy Kirchwey Brown was involved in throughout her life in various capacities: as a paid staff member of the League of Women Voters, as a political appointee to many Massachusetts state committees and commissions, and as a volunteer. The subseries also holds subject files Brown kept on topics that interested her, people in the public eye, etc. Other files show Brown's involvement with Massachusetts and national Democratic Party committees and political campaigns, including that of her friend Minnie Fisher Cunningham (#42.9). Brown was a supporter of Al Smith's presidential campaign in 1928, and the subseries includes a folder of correspondence and clippings from an automobile tour of Massachusetts made by several women supporters.

Brown served as president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters from 1936 to 1940, and her files from that time period (#45.1-49.5) are included here. Of particular note is material relating to Brown's service on various Massachusetts commissions and committees relating to juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation. Some folders from Brown's tenure on the Board of the Massachusetts Training Schools contain letters to her from individuals who had gone through the schools (#50.12, 51.6). A volume from the Lancaster Industrial School for Girls (#51.3-51.4) contains information on individual girls up for parole. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject or organization; thereunder material is generally arranged chronologically.

Series V, OVERSIZED AND MEMORABILIA, 1928-1933, n.d. (FD.2, F+D.3, OD.2, Mem.1-Mem.3), contains oversized material removed from throughout the collection and several of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's political pins.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].

More material on Brown's advocacy for the Sheppard-Towner Act and the Child Labor Amendment, as well as her other work for the League of Women Voters, is in A-119.


Dorothy Browning Kirchwey was born in Albany, New York, on September 3, 1888, to Dora Child Wendell and George Washington Kirchwey. She was one of four children: Mary Fredericka "Freda" (1893-1976), Karl (1885?-1943) and George Washington (1897?-1905). The elder George Washington Kirchwey (1855-1942) was a noted criminologist, law professor, and dean at Albany Law School and Columbia Law School, as well as a New York State commissioner on prison reform and warden at the Sing Sing state prison in Ossining, New York.

Dorothy Kirchwey attended the progressive Horace Mann School in New York City, where her maternal aunts Mary and Clara also taught. She graduated in 1906 and then attended Barnard College (B.A., 1910). Subsequently she worked at Smith College for a year as an Assistant in Economics and Sociology, and returned to New York City to work for the Russell Sage Foundation as an investigator. In 1912 she traveled to Hamburg, Germany, to conduct a study of employment systems of harbor workers in the port. She subsequently moved to Washington, DC, in order to work for the United States Commission on Industrial Relations.

On November 23, 1915, she married lawyer Herman LaRue Brown (B.A., Harvard, 1904; LL.B., Harvard, 1906), known as LaRue. LaRue Brown was at that time working in Washington as Special Counsel for the United States on a variety of Sherman Act and Clayton Act cases. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown worked for the US Children's Bureau, specializing in issues of child labor. Their daughter Eleanor was born August 1, 1917, in Boston, and died in early 1920. Perhaps because of this tragic loss, Dorothy developed close bonds with many young women throughout her life, some of whom addressed her as "Aunt Dorothy."

From the time of his graduation from law school until his death, LaRue Brown practiced law in Boston with the firm Brown, Field & Murray (later Brown, Field, & McCarthy). From 1917 to 1919 he worked in Washington, DC, as an Assistant Attorney General of the United States. Beginning in 1920, Dorothy was chair of the League of Women Voters' Child Welfare Committee, and she worked to pass the Sheppard-Towner bill (which addressed issues of maternal and infant health) and fought to get a Child Labor Amendment adopted.

Dorothy Kirchwey Brown resigned her job with the national League of Women Voters in 1922, but served as a Director of the League from 1936 to 1940. She was one of the original trustees of the Carrie Chapman Catt Memorial Fund, a League of Women Voters endeavor which became the LWV Overseas Education Fund. Brown was elected President of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters in 1939 and served until 1942. She was also extremely active in the Boston chapter of the League of Women Voters, serving as Vice President and on several committees throughout the 1930s and 1950s.

In 1942, LaRue Brown was appointed special representative of the Attorney General of the United States and Special Assistant to the Ambassador, US Embassy, London, England. In this capacity, he worked out an agreement between the US and Great Britain known as the "waiver," or "knock for knock" agreement, which called for avoiding "useless litigation in matters of maritime transportation prejudicial to their respective economies in wartime." He traveled to and from London several times during the end and after World War II. Dorothy accompanied him several times, once (beginning in February 1945) as a representative of the Unitarian Service Committee, which was active in war refugee relief.

The Browns were both extremely active in Democratic Party politics; LaRue Brown and Franklin Roosevelt were classmates and friends at Harvard, and the two families were close. Dorothy served as Vice Chair of the Democratic State Committee and was a Director of the Jefferson Society, a liberal political group formed after the 1928 election. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's early interest in child labor practices and law led her to be appointed to many state-wide committees and boards. In 1930 she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts Training Schools; the Board managed the schools and oversaw parole supervision of delinquent children. Brown served for 17 years; she was then a member of the successor group, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Service to Youth, from 1948 to 1952. She was member of the Corporation of the Family Service Association of Greater Boston from 1963 to 1970.

In their later years, the Browns were able to travel internationally a fair amount. LaRue Brown died in 1969. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown died at home in Boston on July 30, 1981.

Dorothy's sister Freda Kirchwey was a journalist and Editor of The Nation from 1933 to 1955. Freda Kirchwey married Evans Clark (1888-1970) in November 1915. They had three children, Brewster (1916-1917), Michael (1919-2006) and Jeffrey (1923-1930). After Evans Clark's death in 1970, Freda lived with Dorothy Kirchwey Brown in Boston, Massachusetts, for a time. She died in a St. Petersburg, Florida, nursing home, on January 3, 1976.

Dorothy's brother Karl Wendell Kirchwey married Helen Jervis in 1918 and had two children: George Washington III (b. 1920) and Karl Wendell, Jr. (1921-1944). Karl and Helen divorced; Karl then married Prunella Bodkin in 1930 and they had two children: Diana (b.1932) and Christopher, also called Kim (b.1935). George Washington Kirchwey III had three children: Catherine (b. 1947?) with his first wife, and Karl (b. 1956) and George with his second wife Ellen "Dougie" Douglas Kirchwey.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1896-1976 (#1.1-5.3, FD.1, PD.1-PD.5)
  2. Series II. LaRue family and Herman LaRue Brown, 1857-1966 (#5.4-14.6, F+D.1, OD.1, PD.6-PD.10)
  3. ___Subseries A. LaRue family, 1857-1932 (5.4-9.3, F+D.1, OD.1, PD.6)
  4. ___Subseries B. Herman LaRue Brown, ca.1885-1966 (#9.4-14.6, PD.7-PD.10)
  5. Series III. Correspondence, 1866-1981 (#14.7-39.6, PD.11-PD.13)
  6. ___Subseries A. Family, 1881-1981 (#14.7-22.4, PD.11)
  7. ___Subseries B. General, 1866-1981 (#22.5-39.6, PD.12-PD.13)
  8. Series IV. Professional, 1910-1981 (#39.7-53.6, F+D.2, PD.14)
  9. ___Subseries A. Writings and speeches, 1915-1961, n.d. (#39.7-40.7)
  10. ___Subseries B. Organizations and subject files, 1910-1981 (#40.8-53.6, F+D.2, PD.14)
  11. Series V. Oversized and memorabilia, 1928-1933, n.d. (FD.2, F+D.3, OD.2, Mem.1-Mem.3)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 1662, 70-26, 70-36, 70-56, 70-82, 71-2, 71-131, 72-102, 73-72, 73-85, 73-88, 74-16, 74-17, 74-192, 74-245, 74-275, 75-61, 75-15, 77-M138, 77-M139, 77-M141, 77-M161, 79-M192, 81-M200, 81-M234

These papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown were given to the Schlesinger Library by Dorothy Kirchwey Brown between May 1960 and August 1979, and by her estate in August and October 1981.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Dorothy Kirchwey Brown Papers (A-119) and Freda Kirchwey Papers (MC 280).

Processing Information

Processed: May 2013

By: Jenny Gotwals and Camille Owens, with assistance from Emily Underwood.

Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey. Additional papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, 1857-1981 (inclusive), 1912-1971 (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 gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1950, Radcliffe College Class of 1968; the Alice Jeanette Ward Fund; and the Elsie Rodd 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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