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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 817

Papers of Katherine M. Keene, 1941-1977 (inclusive), 1941-1945 (bulk)


Correspondence, diaries, photographs, uniform, and ephemera documenting Katherine Keene's service as a member of the Women's Army Corps (WACs) attached to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II.


  • 1941-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1941-1945

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Katherine Keene 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.


5.39 linear feet ((3 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 card file box, 1 folio box, 1 folio+ box, 1 oversize box) plus 3 photograph folders)

The collection contains correspondence, diaries, photographs, a WAC uniform, and ephemera documenting Katherine Keene's service as a member of the Women's Army Corps (WACs) attached to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. Diaries and letters Keene wrote to her family in Seattle, Washington, document Keene's WAC experiences from enlistment, through training, and throughout her overseas assignments in London, England; Paris, France; Biebrich, Germany; and Berlin, Germany. Keene spent most of the war in London and wrote about mundane topics such as drilling, the quality of the food available, the weather, and cleaning her living quarters, amidst accounts of viewing bomb damage in London, getting around London in the dark during blackouts, and surviving air raids. Materials from her brief stay in Paris contain descriptions of the city with commentary on the lack of bomb damage the city incurred in comparison to London. Keene's writings while in Germany contain descriptions of bomb damage, speculation on the demobilization process, and complaints about the poor quality of the food available. Keene also commented on the German people she saw: describing Germans begging for food outside of the WAC mess hall, noting the strain of interacting with former enemies, and speculating that quality of life for Germans during the war had been better than it had been for the English people based on the dress of post-war Germans. Keene also described living in the house of a deposed German family who frequently visited the house to care for the yard and gardens. While she expressed some sympathy for the displaced families, she justified the situation by imagining that the families had been Nazis.

Photograph journals were compiled by Keene after the war and contain typed excerpts from her war-time letters and diaries illustrated by photographs of the places she visited and people she served with. During the war, Keene's writings were subject to Army censorship, a fact that she commented on frequently in both her letters and diaries. As a result, none of Keene's war-time materials contain mention of the OSS or the work Keene performed during the war beyond mentions of typing reports. Keene expounded on the nature of the reports she typed, and detailed other clerical work she performed for the OSS in an undated memoir, found in folder #2.7.

Files are arranged alphabetically. All folder titles and descriptions were created by the archivist. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Katherine Mildred Keene, daughter of Lawrence Bruce Keene (1871-1954) and Barbara Dautermann (1880-1962), was born September 18, 1919, in Seattle, Washington. She received a BA in sociology from the University of Washington in 1940. She enlisted in the U.S. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) on December 7, 1942, and in the Women's Army Corps (WACs) in August 1943. From September 1943 to May 1945, she was stationed in London, England, working for the secret intelligence and research and analysis branches of the Office of Strategic Services. Following Victory in Europe Day, Keene became Secretary to the head of the OSS Research and Analysis Branch in the European Theatre of Operations, Chandler Morse, and served in briefly in Paris, France, before being stationed in Germany, first in Biebrich and later in Berlin. She was demobilized in October 1945 and returned home to Seattle.

Keene attended Columbia University Teachers College on the G.I. Bill and received a master's degree in education in 1949. She taught world history for 26 years in the Prince George County Public Schools in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, before retiring in 1981. Keene died December 7, 2013, in Edmonds, Washington.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 99-M69, 2014-M27

The papers of Katherine Keene were given to the Schlesinger Library by Katherine Keene in May 1999 and by Keene's executor, Jo Waldron, in February 2014.

Processing Information

Processed: December 2014

By: Johanna Carll, with assistance from Dan Bullman.

Keene, Katherine M. (Katherine Mildred), 1919-2013. Papers of Katherine M. Keene, 1941-1977 (inclusive), 1941-1945 (bulk): 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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