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COLLECTION Identifier: 88-M189--89-M203

Papers of Mary Dublin Keyserling, 1924-1988


Biographical information, correspondence, speeches, etc., of Mary (Dublin) Keyserling, economist, government administrator, and director of the Women's Bureau.


  • Creation: 1924-1988

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Dublin Keyserling 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.


5.63 linear feet ((5 cartons, 1+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 oversize folder)

This collection contains: biographical information; letters to Mary Dublin Keyserling from her mother, father, and husband; photocopies of professional correspondence, mostly to Keyserling and primarily letters of appointment and of thanks; speeches, articles, and reports by Keyserling; and clippings about her. The letters from her parents evince a close relationship with her mother who wrote frankly of her frustration with Keyserling's father, and with her father who took a special interest in Keyserling's work.

The speeches, articles, and clippings were arranged chronologically by Keyserling in binders, which were disassembled during processing. Biographical papers and personal correspondence are followed by professional correspondence (#32-58), with speeches, articles, and clippings, arranged in one chronological sequence (#59-159); a few photographs are included in the last group.


Mary Dublin Keyserling, whose career as an administrator and economist in the federal government spanned three presidential administrations, was born in New York City on May 25, 1910. The second of four children, Keyserling was greatly influenced by her parents, Louis and Augusta (Salik) Dublin, both of whom had emigrated from Eastern Europe. A professor of science and mathematics, her father was active in national public health organizations; as vice-president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, he used the resources of the company to study the causes of death and illness. Her mother, a social worker, had graduated from Barnard College and served as head of a settlement house in Philadelphia. During Keyserling's childhood the family resided in Mamaroneck, a small town north of New York, but in 1924 moved to Manhattan, where Keyserling attended Horace Mann, a private school affiliated with Columbia University, and Barnard College.

After graduating from Barnard in 1930, Keyserling joined the research staff of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care in Washington, D.C. She next held a position as administrative assistant for the State Charities Aid Society in New York City. In 1933, having completed all but the thesis requirement for a doctorate in economics at the London School of Economics and Columbia University, she was hired to teach economics and statistics at Sarah Lawrence College. In the spring of 1938, Keyserling was asked to serve as executive director of the National Consumers' League in New York. During her tenure (1938-1941) the League pushed for the extension and improvement of state minimum wage legislation, opposed efforts to weaken provisions of the National Labor Act, and fought for food and drug legislation, and for the enactment of national health insurance.

In 1940, Keyserling married Leon H. Keyserling, an economist and general counsel for the U.S. Housing Authority, and moved to Washington. She was employed as coordinator of hearings for the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense Migration, which was concerned with the social and economic impact of population movements resulting from the wartime build-up of industrial production. In 1942, Keyserling became Eleanor Roosevelt's personal advisor in the Office of Civilian Defense. Here she assisted in the effort to address problems faced by working women; with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, Congress passed the Lanham Act, which provided federally-funded day care to millions of children.

In the spring of 1943, seeking more direct involvement in the war effort, Keyserling accepted a post as an economist in the Foreign Economic Administration, a special agency set up to study the new supply and demand relationships spawned by the war. After the war and the dissolution of the Foreign Economic Administration, she was hired by the Special Programs Division of the Office of International Trade (Department of Commerce) to do an analysis that fore-shadowed the soon-to-be-announced Marshall Plan. When the Special Programs Division became the International Economic Analysis Division in 1946, Keyserling was named director.

With the change in administration in 1953, Keyserling resigned her post in the Department of Commerce and, with her husband, set up an economic consulting office. The Keyserlings founded the Conference on Economic Progress, a nonprofit organization that engaged in economic research, education, and publication of studies concerning national economic problems. Keyserling was the Conference on Economic Progress's associate director, 1953-1963; while serving in this post she testified before Congress on pending labor and social welfare legislation. During this period Keyserling was also a member of the Woman's National Democratic Club, and was the only woman member of the Democratic Platform Committee. In 1961-1963 she served on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women.

In 1964, President Johnson appointed Keyserling director of the Women's Bureau. In this post, she made a great effort to ensure the passage of legislation and the development of programs that would help lift women out of poverty. She spoke frequently about the activities and concerns of the Bureau and wrote many articles on issues of concern to women. She also served as executive vice-chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women, advocated passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, worked with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to develop standards for enforcement of Title VII, and, with the State Department and other organizations, worked to improve labor standards and employment opportunities for women in other countries.

Following her departure from the Women's Bureau in 1969, Keyserling returned to her work with the Conference on Economic Progress. As associate director she worked closely with her husband, the president and director of the Conference on Economic Progress, until his death in 1987. Also in 1969, Keyserling was invited to do a speaking tour in Africa for the Department of State. On her return, she directed a national survey of day care services and needs. Her summary report of the study's findings, Windows On Day Care (1972), won her the Distinguished Service Award of the National Conference on Social Welfare. Keyserling subsequently served as executive director of Project Action Now for Children and Youth (1972-1973), directed a survey of funded child care programs in New York City (1974), and, under the auspices of the Child Welfare League of America, was the chief author of a comprehensive report that called for strengthening federal standards for child day care services (1976).

Keyserling lives in Washington, D.C., and continues to serve as a consultant to many public interest groups, and to federal, state, and local administrative and legislative bodies. For further biographical information, see the interview with her in the Schlesinger Library's Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project (OH-40).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 88-M189, 89-M50, 89-M75, 89-M203

The papers of Mary Dublin Keyserling were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Dublin Keyserling in November 1988, and in March, April, and November 1989.


The following item has been removed from the collection and deposited in Schlesinger Library's book collection, July 1981:

  1. Windows on Day Care (National Council of Jewish Women, 1972)


  1. Carton 1: 1-39
  2. Carton 2: 40-73
  3. Carton 3: 74-102
  4. Carton 4: 103-124
  5. Carton 5: 125-146
  6. Box 6: 147-154
  7. Box 7: 155-159

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: July 1991

By: Anne Engelhart, Doreen Drury

Keyserling, Mary Dublin. Papers of Mary Dublin Keyserling, 1924-1988: 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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