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COLLECTION Identifier: A-119

Papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, 1917-1957


Correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, etc., of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, Democratic Party activist and reformer.


  • 1917-1957


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.


2.29 linear feet (5+1/2 file boxes)

Dorothy Kirchwey Brown's activities for social betterment are well represented in her correspondence, articles, and working papers. Maternal care and child welfare (the Sheppard-Towner Act) and child labor legislation (Child Labor Amendment) receive emphasis through her work in the League of Women Voters and the Massachusetts Committee on the Ratification of the Child Labor Amendment. Later work on League of Women Voters subjects is also covered.


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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 55-58, 37-57, 111

Received April 1955, 1957, 1960. Gift of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown (Mrs. LaRue Brown); 68 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see see Dorothy Kirchwey Brown Additional papers, 1857-1981 (MC736).


The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. League of Women Voters publications
  2. U.S. Dept. of Labor publications
  3. Children's Bureau publications
  4. Other miscellaneous publications


  1. Box 1: 1-32
  2. Box 2: 33-46
  3. Box 3: 47-58
  4. Box 4: 59-71
  5. Box 5: 72-80
  6. Box 6: 81-85
Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey. Papers of Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, 1917-1957: 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

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