Papers of Eloise Bittel Cohen, 1898-2005 (inclusive), 1928-2003 (bulk)
- Majority of material found within 1928-2003
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Use
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
32.1 linear feet ((77 file boxes) plus 5 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 29 photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 90 motion pictures, 1 audiocassette, 1 object)
These papers also document the married life of Eloise and Wilbur Cohen. During the 1940s and 1950s, Wilbur, who traveled almost constantly, wrote letters to Eloise commenting on the lack of intimacy and warmth he felt from her, as well as his feelings regarding Eloise's extra-marital affair, its resolution, and worries for the future. This collection will also be valuable to researchers studying the effects of aging and memory loss. Eloise began to show symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease in the 1990s, and often wrote notes to herself because she knew she was forgetting things. The Cohen family created five spreadsheets of container lists using Eloise Bittel Cohen's original folder headings and additional information added as necessary. Original folder headings were maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist.
Wilbur Cohen's professional papers are held at Cornell University (Wilbur Joseph Cohen Papers, 1937-1942); the New York State Library (Papers, 1941-1980); University of Michigan (Wilbur J. Cohen papers 1967-1987); the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library (Wilbur J. Cohen Papers, 1935-1987); the Wisconsin Historical Society (Wilbur J. Cohen Papers, 1930-1987); and the Social Security Archives (Papers, 1930-1987).
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, ca.1915-2004, n.d. (#1.1-11.5, F+D.1-F+D.2, SD.1), includes guestbooks, birth certificates, speeches, articles by and about Eloise Bittel Cohen, passports, scrapbooks, recipes, financial records, real estate records, notes from classes at the University of Michigan, and poems. The Tivy High School scrapbook created by Eloise Bittel Cohen includes class lists, photographs, clippings, and notes from classmates (#2.8v). This series also includes the short stories and poems written by Eloise Bittel Cohen for the Turner Clinic writing group, which was designed for people over 60, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These documents also contain detailed itineraries and notes related to the "This is Our Country" trip Eloise and Wilbur Cohen took with Lady Bird Johnson in 1968 (#10.4). Also found in this series are records from the many properties owned by the Cohens in Maryland, Michigan, and Texas, including annotated maps of the Bittel family ranch in Ingram, Texas (#F+D.1, SD.1). This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series II, DIARIES, 1928-1995, n.d. (#11.6-30.5, F+D.3, SD.1), includes Eloise Bittel Cohen's diaries and travel diaries. Folders titled "Diary" often contain loose papers with diary entries; clippings; drafts of letters; spiral notebooks with diary entries; lists and excerpts from books; transcripts of phone conversations; and actual bound diaries. Cohen wrote her diary entries and letter drafts on any kind of paper she had to hand, including envelopes, hotel laundry bags, paper towels, glossy paper, back of reports, and computer paper. Almost half the diary entries are in shorthand, some of which have been transcribed either separately, or on the same page. Diary entries include topics such as life at home with new babies; gas rationing during World War II; health; housekeeping; child-raising; family life; accounts of trips taken; drafts of letters to Wilbur Cohen while he was away; notes from Nixon's inauguration in 1969; and events with President Johnson and other cabinet members. Eloise Bittel Cohen often commented on her faith through her life, and wrote frequently in her diaries about religion. Travel diaries document the Cohens's extensive journeys around the world, including a trip to Russia in 1967 (#14.2). Cohen comments on the prices of items in Russia, the food she ate, and sightseeing trips she took. Other trips include Paris, Denmark, Switzerland, Egypt, and China. Folders identified as "travel diary" contain actual diary entries, not just notes or letters home. Diary entries in the 1990s focus around the disbursal of Eloise Bittel Cohen's estate, and the trouble she was having remembering things during the day. Cohen began to make lists of things to remember and questions to ask her niece Lynda Becker Pitcher who lived with her for a period of time during the 1990s. This material also contains a scrapbook that features some of the Washington, DC, events attended by Eloise and Wilbur Cohen with clippings, programs, and invitations. Some folders in the late 1940s and early 1950s contains only one or two sheets of paper. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1905-2005, n.d. (#30.6-55.3, F+D.4, Mem.1), includes Eloise Bittel Cohen's correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues. Letters between Eloise and Wilbur Cohen describe their courtship while Eloise Bittel Cohen was attending school in New York, hope for their future together, possible social reforms, their families, Cohen's social work at the Church of All Nations Settlement House, and Wilbur Cohen's career in Washington, DC. Letters from Wilbur Cohen discuss Eloise's extra-marital affair in the early 1950s, as well as her therapy sessions after she ended the affair in 1951. These letters show Wilbur Cohen's feelings toward his wife at the time of the affair, and also show the healing that occurred in their marriage in the years afterward. After Wilbur's death in 1987, Eloise wrote him posthumous letters. They are very poignant, especially the first which reads "You stopped breathing this morning but you will never stop being my husband, my lover, my best friend, my teacher" (#52.1).
Letters from Eloise Bittel Cohen's three sons Christopher, Bruce, and Stuart, include descriptions of trips to Texas to visit the extended Bittel family, letters the boys wrote from camp, and later discussions of their careers, wives, and their own children. Material from Christopher Cohen also contains letters from his Peace Corps training, which describe the various instruction received, such as languages, physical exercises, agriculture, swimming, and rural construction and development. His last letter describes being "selected out" or released from training, and subsequently applying to law school at the University of Michigan (#35.3). Eloise and Wilbur Cohen were generous with their time and money, and many letters express thanks for that generosity.
Eloise Bittel Cohen's correspondence with family and friends often includes discussions of Wilbur Cohen's continuing work on social policy, trips taken, health issues of friends and family, deaths, and daily life. In 1964, Cohen's nephew Jim Becker had a bike accident that left him paralyzed for the rest of his life (#44.9). Most letters Eloise Bittel Cohen received from Julius "Brother" Bittel recount their childhood on the Bittel's Texas ranch; many of these letters include typewritten transcripts (#30.10-31.1). Also found in this series are the many letters of condolence received by Eloise Bittel Cohen after Wilbur Cohen's death, including from Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody, the Consul General of Israel Yoran Ettinger, Knesset member Zena Harman, Massachusetts Congressman Thomas Eliot, Theodore Sorensen, Senator Edward Kennedy, Walter Mondale, and Wilbur's stepmother Angeline "Ann" Badura Cohen.
Eloise Bittel Cohen often drafted copies of her outgoing correspondence in her diary entries, which can be found in Series II. Cohen kept both general and named correspondence, which is found here. Cohen's general correspondence is titled "Letters" and contains both incoming and outgoing mail. Correspondence between Eloise and Wilbur Cohen can be found filed below both alphabetically and chronologically, and can also be found filed separately within Wilbur's chronological correspondence in Series V. Eloise Bittel Cohen's correspondence with many of her family members can be found below in both her named and general correspondence, as well as Series VI. This series is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically.
Series IV, ORGANIZATIONS, 1940-2004, n.d. (#55.4-58.12), includes correspondence, notes, memoranda, reports, speeches, and other material related to the various organizations for which Eloise Bittel Cohen worked, volunteered, or donated to, including the Church of All Nations Settlement House, the League of Women Voters, the Goodwill Club, and the International Neighbors Club. This series includes materials from Cohen's work for Ann Arbor's local Democratic National Party where she managed campaigns for the Ann Arbor City Council, helped people register to vote, and raised campaign funds (#55.7). This series also includes documents from Eloise Bittel Cohen's work in Michigan Congressman Weston Vivian's Washington, DC, office; the Congress for Appalachian Development, and her support of the Quicksand Craft Center in Kentucky (#58.7-58.8, 56.1-56.3). Also found in this series is material related to the Beach Drive protest Cohen joined, which opposed the building a new road through Rock Creek Park in Maryland and Washington, DC (#55.10-55.11). This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series V, WILBUR COHEN, 1924-2005, n.d. (#59.1-70.7), includes correspondence, desk calendars, diaries, articles, scrapbooks, reports, drawings, autobiographies and other personal writings, curricula vitae, and financial records of Wilbur Cohen. Cohen was very fond of improving himself, his family members, and the world around him. His correspondence with his family (especially with his brother Darwin Huxley,) friends, and colleagues reflects this. During the 1930s Wilbur Cohen would return Darwin's letters to him with corrections on grammar and spelling. This series includes a long document written by Wilbur, in which he attempts to understand how his childhood and his parent's relationship played a part in the tumult of his own marriage to Eloise Bittel Cohen during her single affair in the early 1950s (#64.14). He writes about his feelings on their relationship, Eloise Bittel Cohen's personality, and how after 15 years of marriage he still doesn’t understand her. Also found here is Wilbur Cohen's reaction to President Kennedy's assassination, as well as to the transition to the Johnson Administration in the aftermath. This material also contains a memorandum regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation's investigation of Wilbur Cohen's connection to the Wagner Murray Dingell Bill, which dealt with health insurance, and socialized medicine in Japan after World War II (#63.2). Also included in this series are several sketches and water colors by Wilbur Cohen (#70.1-70.2). Several oral histories and interviews of Wilbur Cohen, including one conducted a couple of weeks before his death (#67.9), as well as an interview between Cohen and his cousin Carl Lifson (#67.13) are included. Posthumous tributes to Wilbur Cohen include letters of condolence from John Kenneth Galbraith and Lady Bird Johnson. This series also includes material from the dedication of the Wilbur J. Cohen Federal Building in 1988. Correspondence between Eloise and Wilbur Cohen can be found below filed chronologically, and be found filed separately within Eloise's alphabetical and chronological correspondence. Wilbur Cohen's correspondence with other family members can be found filed separately in Series VI with some overlap. This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series VI, BITTEL AND COHEN FAMILIES, 1898, 1904-2003, n.d. (#70.8-77.14, F+D.5, SD.1), includes correspondence, financial records, genealogies, obituaries, and other material related to the Bittel and Cohen families. This series is arranged in two subseries.
Subseries A, Bittel family, 1921-2000, n.d. (#70.8-75.14, F+D.5, SD.1), includes correspondence, family histories, genealogies, family stories, and obituaries of the extended Bittel family. The Bittel family include Eloise Bittel Cohen's parents Jennie and Albert Bittel; her oldest sister Annette "Sister" Bittel Ferguson (1896-1957); her brother Julius "Brother" Bittel (1898-1975); and her other sisters: Anna Bittel Riley (1901-1997); Patricia "Hattie Mae" Bittel Carson (1907-1997); Alberta "Gladys" Bittel King (1910-1998); and Vivian Bittel Becker (1916-1988).
Albert Bittel's parents, Johannes Marcus "John" and Clara Kutzer Bittel both immigrated to United States as children from Germany in the 1800s, and were married in Comfort, Texas, in 1866. The Bittel family spoke both German and English until the outbreak of World War I, after which they decided to speak only English to show support for the United States. Albert Bittel was born on May 19, 1873, in Kerrville, Texas. Jennie Pendley Bittel was born on May 16, 1877, in Georgia, to R. D. and Cassandra Smith Pendley. Jennie and Albert Bittel were married on December 19, 1894, in Texas. After the birth of their first daughter, Annette, Jennie and Albert Bittel bought a large ranch in Ingram, Texas. Most of their children stayed in the Texas area, although Julius "Brother" Bittel eventually moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Vivian Bittel Becker settled in Oklahoma. Albert Bittel died on September 14, 1939, after being crushed by a bolder while trying to save an animal on his ranch. Jennie Pendley Bittel died on August 11, 1945, from heart failure.
This subseries contains correspondence and other material related to the Bittel family's spouses, children, and aunts. Albert and Jennie Bittel's correspondence includes topics such as the health and well being of other family members, Eloise Bittel Cohen leaving for school in New York, dress making, visits, presents exchanged, and daily life. Vivian Bittel Becker's correspondence includes letters with friends and family while she was attending Mary Hardin-Baylor College, as well as her courtship with Frederick Berryl Becker. This subseries also contains material related to the limousine service founded by Vivian Bittel Becker in Oklahoma (#70.11). Anna Bittel Riley was married four times: to Dwight Kirkland (1917), Ira William "Billy" Mitchell (1923), William Kirkpatrick (ca.1945), and Harold Riley (ca.1960). Documents containing the story of Billy Mitchell's unsolved homicide are found in this subseries (#73.4). Material related to the book draft of Julius "Brother" Bittel's childhood memories are included in this subseries (#71.9). Eloise Bittel Cohen's correspondence with some of these family members is in Series II and Series III. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries B, Cohen family, 1898, 1904-2003, n.d. (#75.15-77.14), includes family genealogies and histories, articles, writings, and a scrapbook of the Cohen family. The Cohen family include Wilbur Cohen's parents Aaron and Bessie Rubenstein Cohen; his step-mother Angeline "Ann" Badura Cohen (1913-1993); his brother Darwin Huxley (1919-1992); his sons Christopher, Bruce, and Stuart; their spouses and children; and Aaron Cohen's sisters Bessie Cohen Wilzin (1878-1973) and Caroline Cohen Goldberg Sapiro (1880-1976). Darwin Huxley, who served in World War II, changed his last name from Cohen to Huxley during the war due to the anti-Semitism he encountered.
Aaron Cohen was born on June 30, 1887, to Abraham and Henrietta Hamburger Cohen in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Cohen family immigrated to the United States in 1892, passing through Ellis Island on their way to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Henrietta Hamburger Cohen's sister lived. The Cohens eventually settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bessie Rubenstein was born on April 1, 1891 to Davis and Sarah Lifson Rubenstein in New York City. Aaron Cohen married Bessie Rubenstein on August 4, 1912. The Cohens ran several grocery stores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, including the ABC (Aaron Bessie Cohen) Market, the Milwaukee Poultry Market, and the Wells Variety Store. Bessie Rubenstein Cohen died on December 8, 1941. Aaron Cohen died on January 31, 1977.
Aaron Cohen's correspondence includes letters from Wilbur discussing Darwin Huxley's school work; Wilbur's career in Washington, DC; keeping fit while working an office job, World War II; and a graduate fellowship at Harvard. Wilbur and Aaron Cohen's correspondence also contains a thank you letter written by Wilbur on his 50th birthday in honor of his father. Found within this material is Aaron Cohen's scrapbook, which documents his career in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as owner of the ABC Market and president of the Parent Teacher Association, as well as the careers of Wilbur Cohen and Darwin Huxley. This subseries also includes letters from Christopher Cohen written to friends while traveling in Europe during 1966, as well as documents related to his election campaigns for alderman in Chicago, Illinois. Cohen family genealogies and histories are also found in this subseries. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Series VII, PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIOVISUAL, ca.1915-2004, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.30, MP-76.1-MP-76.90, T-525.1), includes photographs, 8mm and 16mm films, and one microcassette. The photographs of Eloise and Wilbur Cohen were found throughout the collection, and feature members of the extended Bittel and Cohen families and friends of Eloise and Wilbur Cohen. This series also includes 90 8mm and 16mm films recorded by Wilbur and Eloise Cohen. These films document the Cohen's family life and travel. Also found within this series is an oral history of Wilbur Cohen recorded a few weeks before his death in May, 1987. This series is arranged by format.
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.
In 1936, Eloise Bittel Cohen moved to Washington, DC, for a job with the Bureau of Public Assistance, which was studying aspects of Social Security. A few months later, she met Wilbur Cohen, a research assistant for the Social Security Board, at a Bureau of Public Assistance Union meeting in Washington, DC. In the fall of 1937, while continuing to date Wilbur, Eloise enrolled at the New York School of Social Work.
Eloise and Wilbur Cohen were married on April 8, 1938, and three weeks later, left for Europe on a grant from the Social Science Research Council to study the social security coverage for farmers in England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia. Upon their return to Washington, DC, Eloise Bittel Cohen completed a survey of the Surplus Commodities program, and served as Assistant Supervisor of Tenant Selection for low-rent housing. The Cohens rented an apartment for a short period of time in the former Rossdhu Castle in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and then settled in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Cohens had three sons: Christopher (born 1942), Bruce (born 1944) and Stuart (born 1946).
The Cohens moved from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1956, where Wilbur Cohen became a professor of public welfare at the University of Michigan. Although absent from Washington, DC, he continued to be consulted by various agencies on public assistance and unemployment compensation. Eloise Bittel Cohen volunteered for multiple organizations while living in Ann Arbor, including the Ann Arbor Democratic Party, and the League of Women Voters.
In 1961, the Cohens returned to their home in Silver Spring, Maryland, when President Kennedy named Wilbur Cohen as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). In 1965, Wilbur became Under Secretary of HEW, and was confirmed as Secretary of HEW in 1968. During the 1960s Eloise Bittel Cohen volunteered in the Washington, DC, office of Michigan Congressman Weston Vivian, assisting his constituents in utilizing "Project Head Start," a national pre-school program for children living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
In 1967, Eloise Bittel Cohen became involved with the Congress for Appalachian Development, which raised money for a community school for orphans in Pipestem, West Virginia, and for a mountain institute for graduate students in Eastern Kentucky. Eloise Bittel Cohen also volunteered on the Sub-Committee of Montgomery County, the Maryland Commission on Aging, the International Neighbors Club, and was a sponsor of the Hospitality and Information Service for Diplomatic Residents and Families. In November of 1968, Eloise and Wilbur Cohen traveled with Lady Bird Johnson on her final "This is our Country" trip to New Orleans, Louisiana; Denver, Colorado; and Eureka, California.
In 1969, the Cohens returned to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Wilbur Cohen became Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan. Eloise and Wilbur Cohen began to travel frequently to Israel, where two of their sons worked on the Kefar Blum Kibbutz, and in 1971, Wilbur Cohen was named to the Board of Governors for the University of Haifa.
In 1980, the Cohens left Ann Arbor again, as Wilbur Cohen became the Sid Richardson Professor of Public Affairs at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas (in Austin, Texas). After Wilbur Cohen's death on May 17, 1987, in Seoul, South Korea, Eloise Cohen divided her time between her homes in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Austin, Texas, when not visiting her three sons.
In April of 1988, the Social Security Administration Building in Washington, DC, was renamed the Wilbur J. Cohen Federal Building. Later that same year, Eloise Bittel Cohen traveled to Kenya where her son Bruce Cohen was serving as a management training specialist for Kenyan agricultural workers. In 1994, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor named Eloise Cohen an Outstanding Alumna for her many achievements in public service.
During the late 1990s Eloise began to spend her days at an adult day care center in Austin, Texas, which was later named Eloise's House in her honor. In 1999, Eloise moved to a nursing home in Glencoe, Illinois, to be closer to her son Christopher. Eloise Bittel Cohen suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life, and died in Deerfield, Illinois, on December 16, 2003.
- Series I. Biographical and personal, ca.1915-2004 (#1.1-11.5, F+D.1-F+D.2, SD.1)
- Series II. Diaries, 1928-1995, n.d. (#11.6-30.5, F+D.3, SD.1)
- Series III. Correspondence, 1905-2005, n.d. (#30.6-55.3, F+D.4, Mem.1)
- Series IV. Organizations, 1940-2004, n.d. (#55.4-58.12)
- Series V. Wilbur Cohen, 1924-2005, n.d. (#59.1-70.7)
- Series VI. Bittel and Cohen families, 1898, 1904-2003, n.d. (#70.8-77.14, F+D.5, SD.1)
- Series VII. Photographs and audiovisual, ca.1915-2004, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.30, MP-76.1-MP-76.90, T-525.1)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Eloise Bittel Cohen were given to the Schlesinger Library by her son Stuart Cohen and daughter-in-law Susan Hartman between February 2010 and September 2011.
Accession number: 2011-M164
Processed by: Cat Lea Holbrook
The following item has been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:
- Powell, Naoma, This Stone I Hold: a Collection of Thoughts, n.d.
By: Cat Lea Holbrook, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.
- Adult children of aging parents--Family relationships--United States
- Aging and old age
- Aging parents--Care--United States
- Aging--Social aspects--United States
- Aging--United States
- Ann Arbor (Mich.)--Social life and customs
- Appalachian Region--Economic conditions
- Baby books
- China--Description and travel
- Civic leaders--United States
- Courtship--United States
- Egypt--Description and travel
- Electronic records
- Europe--Description and travel
- Financial records
- Home economics--United States
- Israel--Description and travel
- Japan--Description and travel
- Jewish families--United States
- Legal documents
- Marital conflict
- Marriage--United States
- Mothers and daughters--United States
- Mothers and sons--United States
- Motion pictures
- Nairobi (Kenya)--Description and travel
- New Deal, 1933-1939
- Oral histories
- Parent and child--United States
- Presidential campaigns
- Presidential candidates
- Ranch life--Texas
- Silver Spring (Md.)--Social life and customs
- Sisters--United States
- Soviet Union--Description and travel
- Texas--Social life and customs
- Transatlantic voyages
- Unitarian Universalists--United States
- United States--Officials and employees
- United States--Social conditions--1933-1945
- United States--Social conditions--1945-
- United States--Social life and customs--1918-1945
- United States--Social policy
- Voyages and travels
- Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs--20th century
- Watercolors (paintings)
- Wedding albums
- Wedding rings
- Women and religion
- Women in charitable work
- Women social workers
- Women volunteers in social service
- Women--Education (Higher)--United States
- Women--Employment--United States
- World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
- Cohen, Eloise Bittel, 1913-2003. Papers of Eloise Bittel Cohen, 1898-2005 (inclusive), 1928-2003 (bulk): A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Class of 1956 Schlesinger Library Fund, the Zetlin Sisters Fund, the Jane Rainie Opel '50 Fund, and the Cohen family.
- EAD ID
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.
3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA