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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 680: T-465

Additional papers of Louise W. Holborn, 1898-1975


Addenda to the papers of Louise W. Holborn include biographical and personal material; correspondence; teaching papers; speeches, conference and membership materials; writings; reference files; photographs, and an audiocassette.


  • Creation: 1898-1975

Language of Materials

Most materials in English and German, some in French and Spanish.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Access is unrestricted. Appointment is required for access to audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Louise W. Holborn 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.


23.14 linear feet ((55 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 3 photograph folders, 1 audiotape)

These addenda document Holborn's graduate studies at Radcliffe College, and her professional career as an educator, research consultant, and published author. The bulk of the collection consists of family and personal correspondence, and writings that include extensive research. Papers associated with her years of teaching appear to be somewhat scattered and incomplete. Documents in German are scattered throughout the collection, particularly in her letters from family and friends, but also appear in her biographical papers and research associated with the OSS and the United Nations. Photographs in this collection, which were found loose or with other documents, are listed in the series where they were found. With the exception of folder descriptions provided by Northwestern University for Holborn's co-edited volume of Documents of Major Foreign Powers (#44.1-49.9), folder headings were created by the archivist who also created the arrangement. Most papers were received in folders; loose materials were sorted and interfiled.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1898-1975 (#1.1-5.7, PD.1, FD.1, T-465.1), provides insight into Holborn's early education and graduate studies in Germany, England, and the US. The papers also highlight her various accomplishments, close-knit family, and wide range of friends and colleagues that provided support for her professional development. Included are appointment books; certificates of merit; curricula vitae and personal statements; bibliographies of published writings; educational and financial records; legal proceedings; and clippings and photographs that highlight her various accomplishments, and her years as a student at Radcliffe College, including her Master's thesis, doctoral research, and fellowships. Alumnae newsletters describe her various activities and speeches; minutes and reports document her efforts as chair of the Radcliffe Graduate Chapter of the Committee Investigating Professional Opportunities for Women. Also included are Holborn's obituary, an audiotape of her memorial program, and remarks by Gwendolen Carter. Family and personal correspondence follows a sequence of folders arranged alphabetically.

Family correspondence primarily consists of incoming correspondence, including clippings, photographs, and invitations that document family events and accomplishments. The bulk of the letters are from her brother, Hajo Holborn, who occasionally collaborated with her on research projects. Also included are letters from her mother Helene, her father Ludwig, her brother Frederick, her niece Hannah Holborn Gray, her nephew Hans Holborn, and other family members residing in the United States and Germany. A substantial number of letters are written in German. Other personal correspondence primarily consists of incoming correspondence from friends and colleagues with shared professional interests. There is a relatively small number of her copied replies; annotated comments appear on some letters. There are a substantial number of letters from Gwendolen Carter, illuminating their personal and professional relationship, and from Carter's mother Norah J. Carter, and their mutual friends. Some letters are written in German. Folders containing the letters of Carter and her family appear first, followed by the remaining folders, which are arranged chronologically.

Series II, REFUGEE WORK, 1921-1975, n.d. (#6.1-40.1, PD.2-PD.3, F+D.1) highlights Holborn's efforts to research the history, policies, and interrelated efforts of the United Nations and governmental, non-governmental, and voluntary agencies, as well as her participation in several of these organizations. The papers are organized in five subseries:

Subseries A, United Nations, 1922-1975 (#6.1-15.4), documents the history, structure, and inter-agency cooperation of the United Nations and its specialized agencies: the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Refugee Organization (IRO), and its successor agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The papers include correspondence, conference ephemera, and financial records; interviews, reports, and surveys; legal agreements, minutes, and resolutions; publications and publicity; photographs; and reference files. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM), 1950-1970 (#15.5-19.5), includes conference and seminar ephemera; draft constitutions; correspondence and financial reports; education and training programs; fact sheets, flyers, and brochures; interviews; legislation, minutes, and reports; newsletters, publications, and publicity; photographs; and reference files. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Cuban Refugee Program, 1958-1975 (#19.6-24.3, PD.2), includes correspondence, financial records, and inter-office memoranda; brochures, fact sheets, and handbooks; education and training programs; interviews; legislation and public hearing transcripts; reports, publications, and publicity; photographs; and reference files. Of special interest are records of the Cuban Prisoner Brigade related to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The broader efforts of allied agencies are further described in Subseries D. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries D, Other governmental, non-governmental, and voluntary agencies, 1937-1975 (#24.4-32.2, PD.3, F+D.1), includes correspondence; brochures, fact sheets, and flyers; interviews; minutes; legislation and policies related to foreign aid and immigration; newsletters, pamphlets, and reports. Holborn was an active member of the American Immigration and Citizenship Conference, and the Conference for German Politics. Of special interest are photographs of refugees at a processing center in Austria, Greek refugees, and Ugandan exiles arriving in the United States. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries E, Reference files organized by region, 1921-1975 (#32.3-40.1), compiled by Holborn to support her lectures, research, and writings, includes correspondence; clippings; draft material, and statistical data; maps and reports; minutes, resolutions, and policy agreements; summaries of speeches; publications; and photographs. Of special interest are Holborn's files on Nazi Germany. Folders are arranged alphabetically by region.

Series III, OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1938-1972 (#40.2-42.6), documents Holborn's career as an educator and her work as a research analyst for the Office of Strategic Services. The teaching papers include general correspondence from prospective employers, former students, and academic colleagues; lectures; and religious tracts used by Holborn to conduct evening vespers. Of special interest is Holborn's correspondence with Ralph Bunche, former United States envoy, her report of a United Nations tour organized for German women visiting Connecticut College, and a lecture on Nazi doctrine presented at Wellesley College (see also Series IV). Files (#40.4-41.9) of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) contain correspondence related to Holborn's employment as a research analyst during World War II, draft material, reference files, and Civil Affairs Guides published by the OSS on war-related subjects, including Holborn's research on social welfare in Germany and Austria. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, WRITINGS AND SPEECHES, 1938-1975, n.d. (#42.7-56.3), highlight Holborn's accomplishments as an internationally recognized author. The papers are organized in five subseries:

Subseries A, Articles and essays, 1938-1967 (#42.7-43.5), includes correspondence; published and unpublished articles and essays pertaining to women, including a comparison of women in the United States and Germany; and the role of women in World War II. Also included are edited drafts of Holborn's published articles on the Protestant movement in Germany and international organizations in Europe, and reference files that contain clippings and pamphlets re: education, women in Nazi Germany, and early feminism. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries B, Documents of Major Foreign Powers, 1950-1967 (#44.1-49.9), documents the research, writing. and publication of Documents of Major Foreign Powers by Holborn, Gwendolen M. Carter, and John Herz. Included are articles by Carter and others, a book proposal, correspondence with book editors and publishers, and draft chapters of the book. Folders are arranged chronologically with articles, proposal, and correspondence appearing first, followed by book chapters and reference files.

Subseries C, International studies of refugees, migration, and resettlement, 1950-1967 (#43.6-43.11, 50.1-50.7), includes published and unpublished articles by Holborn; related correspondence; provisional outlines and synopsis; draft material and reference files for two of Holborn's related studies on refugee issues: the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM). Folders are arranged chronologically with IRO material first, followed by ICEM papers.

Subseries D, The Cuban Refugee Program, Its Development and Implementation, 1960-1975 (#50.8-51.9), includes correspondence, provisional outlines, evaluations, recommendations, and several versions of draft chapters and reference files containing appended documents, bibliographies, charts, and clippings. Folders are arranged chronologically with correspondence, draft material, provisional outlines, and evaluations appearing first, followed by chapters and reference files.

Subseries E, Refugees, A Problem of Our Time: The Work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951-1972 , 1941-1975, n.d. (#52.1-55.6), published under the auspices of the former Radcliffe Institute, includes provisional outlines, several versions of draft chapters, and reference files containing appended documents. Chapter titles are not listed in the finding aid as they appear to have changed prior to publication. Folders have been arranged chronologically with the article, provisional outlines, and front matter first, followed by chapters and reference files.

Subseries F, Speeches, 1938-1965, n.d. (#55.7-56.3), includes correspondence, speeches and related drafts, and programs for events at which Holborn was a featured speaker, faculty member, or attendee. Of special interest is her lecture on women in Nazi Germany presented at Wheaton College. Folders are arranged chronologically.

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 [*].


Educator, political scientist, and internationally recognized author on refugee issues, Louise Wilhelmine Holborn was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany, in 1898. Her parents were Helene Bussmann Holborn, who maintained the family home, and Ludwig Holborn, privy government counselor, professor of physics, and director of the Physical-Technical Reichsanstalt in Berlin. Other family members included her brothers, Frederick Holborn of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, who taught at Columbia University, and Hajo Holborn, a professor of history at Yale University, and their families. Her nieces and nephews included Hannah Holborn Gray, who served as president of the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993, and Reverend Hans Holborn, a Methodist minister. Known affectionately as "Isi" to a wide circle of family and friends, Holborn was educated at local schools and came of age during World War I. In 1918, she married August Hugo Gabelmann (1867-1930), a mining and metallurgical engineer. The coupled divorced in 1923; there were no children. During this period, Holborn was also active in voluntary social work and by 1923 had completed two years of formal training. She was awarded the State Diploma for Social Workers in 1924 and held executive positions in social administration. In addition to teaching and lecturing, she directed reconstruction work and assisted in the expansion of relief and welfare organizations in West Prussia, Poland. As an executive member of the Evangelical Social Workers of Germany and the Evangelical Women's Organization, Holborn also gained greater familiarity with the women's movement in Germany.

Between 1928 and 1932 Holborn attended the University of Heidelberg and German Academy for the Advanced Study of Political Science and Policy in Berlin. In 1933, shortly before her final exams, the National-Socialist Party (NSP) rose to power. When the curriculum of academic institutions was changed to reflect the ideology of the NSP, Holborn discontinued her studies. With the support of family and friends, she emigrated to London, England, and briefly resumed her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1934, with the assistance of a Quaker organization, Holborn emigrated to the United States, settling in New Jersey with her brother Frederick. She received additional aid from voluntary agencies, and supported herself by babysitting, working in a library, and teaching informal classes in German. Within two years, she was able to enroll in Radcliffe College at Harvard University where she earned an MA (1936) and a PhD (1938). Her areas of study, both in Germany and the US, focused on the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. Holborn advanced her studies through two fellowships: the Radcliffe-Brookings Institute Fellowship (1936-1937), which enabled her to live and work in Washington, DC, and the Anne Radcliffe Fellowship awarded by the Bureau of International Research at Radcliffe (1937-1938), which facilitated her role as a research assistant. In recognition of her efforts, she was awarded an honorary membership in the Radcliffe chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1940.

Holborn briefly taught at Radcliffe before moving on to teach history and political science at Wellesley College (1939-1942), and Pine Manor Junior College for Women (1942-1946). She was also a visiting lecturer of international relations and international law at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts (1946-1947). In the latter half of 1947, Holborn joined the faculty of the Connecticut College for Women in New London as an assistant professor. Holborn's teaching career often coincided with research projects that drew on her earlier experience. In 1942, she was employed as a research analyst for the Civil Affairs Division of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Washington, DC.; the same year she became a naturalized citizen. Her primary work responsibility at the OSS was to prepare handbooks on public and private welfare in Germany and Austria for occupying allied powers after the war. Holborn also published a number of articles, including "Printing and the Growth of a Protestant Movement in Germany from 1517 to 1524," published in Church History (1942), which underscored her knowledge of Germany's political history.

During her tenure at Connecticut College, Holborn rose to the rank of full professor and continued to receive fellowships and grants, including awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and other organizations. This financial support enabled her to lecture at international conferences, conduct substantive research, and publish seminal studies and reports on refugees. A noted lecturer, Holborn's pre-war experience enabled her to offer unique political insights into the theory and philosophy of the Third Reich, particularly its impact on women and education. She embarked on a German lecture tour, participated in the Amerika Haus Program to enlist the aid of educators and women's groups in rehabilitating Germany, and as a Fulbright professor lectured at the University of Cologne. Holborn's work on behalf of refugee issues was also carried out through her association with similarly focused organizations, including a longstanding membership in the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which enabled her to play an important role in organizing their first conference with the Deutsche Akademiker Bund. She was also a member of the American Immigration and Citizenship Conference (AICC), the US Committee for Refugees, and a founding member of the Conference Group on German Politics (CGGP), a group of academic scholars devoted to the study of German issues. Holborn served on the CGGP's executive committee and chaired its Internship and Research Scholars Committee. She was also a local organizer of the United Nation's first annual World Refugee Year in 1959-1960.

Holborn's funded research mainly focused on the United Nations and several of its specialized agencies: the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which was disbanded by the Liquidation Board of the International Refugee Organization in 1952. Her efforts produced a two-volume edition, War and Peace Aims of the United Nations 1939-1945 (1948); and The International Refugee Organization: A Specialized Agency of the United Nations: Its Work and History, 1946-1952 (1956). In 1968, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the successor agency of the IRO, commissioned Holborn to write the agency's history, subsequently published as Refugees, A Problem of Our Time: The Work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951-1972 (1975). Holborn's research also explored the supporting role of governmental, non-governmental, and voluntary agencies in assisting refugees. Between 1963 and 1969, while she was a research fellow, seminar lecturer, and independent scholar at the Radcliffe Institute, she became a consultant for the Cuban Refugee Project, operated by the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). She produced a report using research data from the United Nations agencies, interviews, and various other agencies. In 1966, she received a grant from the Social Science Research Council to produce the history of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM), later known as the International Organization for Migration, which assumed responsibility for migration issues when the IRO was dissolved. During her career, Holborn also collaborated with Gwendolen M. Carter, a personal friend, professional colleague, and former Director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, and John Herz, professor at the University of New York, to publish textbooks, including Documents of Major Foreign Powers: A Sourcebook on Great Britain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union (1968), and German Constitutional Documents Since 1971: Selected Texts and Commentary (1970).

Holborn retired as professor emerita in 1970 and moved to Orange City, Florida, where she remained active in local community groups that included Common Cause, described as a "people's lobby." She also organized and participated in the lecture series The United States Role in the World of the 70s, sponsored by the Winter Park branch of the AAUW. In 1971 Holborn was awarded Norway's Golden Fridtjof Nansen Ring for exceptional service on behalf of refugees. In 1975, Holborn received the Order of Merit first class from the Federal Republic of Germany, considered the country's highest civilian honor. Her numerous accomplishments have also been listed in Who's Who in America, the Dictionary of Women Worldwide, and the International Who's Who of Women, among other publications. Louise Wilhelmine Holborn died in Orange City, Florida, on October 4, 1975.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1898-1975 (#1.1-5.7, PD.1, FD.1, T-465.1)
  2. Series II. Refugee work, 1921-1975 (#6.1-40.1, PD.2-PD.3, F+D.1)
  3. ___Subseries A. United Nations, 1922-1975 (#6.1-15.4)
  4. ___Subseries B. Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM), 1950-1970 (#15.5-19.5)
  5. ___Subseries C. Cuban Refugee Program, 1958-1975 (#19.6-24.3, PD.2)
  6. ___Subseries D. Other governmental, non-governmental, and voluntary agencies, 1937-1975 (#24.4-32.2, PD.3, F+D.1 )
  7. ___Subseries E. Reference files organized by region, 1921-1975 (#32.3-40.1)
  8. Series III. Other professional activities, 1938-1972 (#40.2-42.6)
  9. Series IV. Writings and speeches, 1938-1975, n.d. (#42.7-56.3)
  10. ___Subseries A. Articles and essays, 1938-1967 (#42.7-43.5)
  11. ___Subseries B. Documents of Major Foreign Powers, 1950-1967 (#44.1-49.9)
  12. ___Subseries C. International studies of refugees, migration, and resettlement, 1950-1967 (#43.6-43.11, 50.1-50.7)
  13. ___Subseries D. The Cuban Refugee Program, Its Development and Implementation, 1960-1975 (#50.8-51.9)
  14. ___Subseries E. Refugees, A Problem of Our Time: The Work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951-1972, 1941-1975, n.d. (#52.1-55.6)
  15. ___Subseries F. Speeches, 1938-1965, n.d. (#55.7-56.3)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 90-M13, 90-M58, 90-M100, 90-M111, 2003-M146, 2004-M16, 2004-M98, 2011-M171

These addenda to the papers of Louise W. Holborn were given to the Schlesinger Library by Hanna Holborn Gray and Hans Holborn in 1990 and by Hanna Holborn Gray in 2011. Additional material was transferred from Northwestern University and the Lilly Library at Indiana University between 1990 and 2004.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Louise W. Holborn Papers, 1971-1975 (RA.A/H723).


Donors: Hanna Holborn Gray, Hans Holborn

Accession numbers: 90-M13, 90-M58, 90-M100, 90-M111, 2003-M146, 2004-M16, 2004-M98

Processed by: Emilyn L. Brown

The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. 2 cartons of duplicate material were returned to the donor.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2011

By: Emilyn Brown, with assistance from Camille Torres.

Holborn, Louise W. (Louise Wilhelmine), 1898-1975. Additional papers of Louise W. Holborn, 1898-1975: 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 the supporters of the Schlesinger Library to the Maximum Access Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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