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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 425

Papers of Helen L. Buttenwieser, 1909-1990 (inclusive), 1968-1990 (bulk)

Papers of Helen L. Buttenwieser, lawyer, civil libertarian, children's rights advocate, social worker, and philanthropist.

Dates

  • 1909-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1990

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

TERMS OF USE

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The President and Fellows of Harvard College holds copyright for the Schlesinger Library in papers written by Helen L. Buttenwieser; copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Unrestricted.

Extent

.83 linear feet ((2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder)

These papers partially document Helen L. Buttenwieser's life between 1968 and 1990, with both professional and, especially, personal papers. They yield no information about her parents, and very little about her siblings, education, friendship with Alger Hiss, or legal cases. There is, however, some family correspondence as well as material about Buttenwieser's philanthropic interests.

The most interesting correspondence is between Buttenwieser and Helen Suzman, South African liberal, Member of Parliament, and co-founder of the Progressive Party. Two letters from publisher Alfred A. Knopf deal with abortions for poor women and the state of the union (United States).

The Helen L. Buttenwieser papers have been divided into two series:

Series I, Personal and biographical (#1-15f), includes a curriculum vitae, entries in law directories, a lengthy interview with HLB, some writings and speeches, photographs, clippings, information about two Buttenwieser oral histories, and some documentation of her involvement with the Legal Aid Society, as well as related correspondence.

Series II, Correspondence (#16-56), is divided into two sections: correspondence grouped by individual or subject, and arranged chronologically within each category; and general correspondence arranged chronologically.

The bulk of the correspondence is between Buttenwieser and family, friends, and colleagues; it includes congratulatory letters, thank-yous, invitations, acknowledgements of political contributions, and charitable solicitations. An Index of Selected Correspondents follows the inventory.

In most cases Buttenwieser's responses were clipped or stapled to letters she received; they were left in that order by the processor. Undated letters filed among dated ones were left where they were found.

BIOGRAPHY

Helen (Lehman) Buttenwieser, lawyer, civil libertarian, children's rights advocate, social worker, and philanthropist, was born on October 8, 1905, in New York City. She was the second of three daughters of Adele (Lewisohn) and Arthur Lehman, members of two of the leading German-Jewish families in the city. Adele Lewisohn Lehman's father, Adolph Lewisohn, made a fortune in copper and the shipping of mining products, and was a leader in prison reform. Arthur Lehman's father, Mayer Lehman, was a founder of the New York Cotton Exchange, a partner in Lehman Brothers bank, and the father of three prominent sons: AL, a banker; Herbert, elected governor of New York and later to the U.S. Senate; and Irving, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.

After attending Horace Mann School in the city, Helen L. Buttenwieser entered Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) in 1923. Mathematics was her favorite subject, but she was neither challenged by nor interested in the rest of the curriculum and left during her junior year to accompany her parents on a trip around the world. Upon her return she went to work at the Hudson Guild in Hell's Kitchen, a poor, immigrant neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side. This was the beginning of a long, active and successful career in New York City, reflected in the following chronology:
  1. 1927-1933: Social worker; Attended New York School of Social Work; Took courses at Columbia University School of General Studies; Appointed to Wardwell Commission on Social Welfare; Caseworker, Foster Home Bureau of Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society
  2. 1929: October 3, married Benjamin J. Buttenwieser
  3. 1929-ca.1945: Served on board (president for a time) of Madison Settlement House
  4. 1930-1935: Commissioner, New York City Board of Child Welfare
  5. 1932: Son, Lawrence B., born; Representative of Jewish Big Sisters, Children's Court, Bronx County
  6. 1933: Daughter, Carol H., born; Entered New York University Law School
  7. 1935: Son, Peter L., born
  8. 1936: Graduated from law school
  9. 1936-1937: Worked at Cravath, de Gersdorff, Swaine and Moore
  10. 1937: Admitted to New York Bar
  11. 1937-1938: Staff lawyer, Legal Aid Society (LAS)
  12. 1938: Son, Paul A., born
  13. 1939: Became a Trustee of Legal Aid Society
  14. 1940-1975: Retained by Jewish Child Care Association
  15. 1942-1962: Trustee, Dalton Schools
  16. 1947-1950: First woman to head a standing committee (Domestic Relations) of Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY)
  17. 1949: First woman in New York City to be named a bank director: Title Guarantee and Trust Co.
  18. 1949-1951: Member Civil Rights Committee, New York State Bar Association; Benjamin J. Buttenwieser Deputy U.S. High Commissioner in Germany
  19. 1949-1980s: Trustee, Connecticut College
  20. 1950s: Became counsel to Leake and Watts Children's Home, Graham Home for Children, Abbott House
  21. 1951-?: Board of Directors, New York Civil Liberties Union
  22. 1955: Daughter, Carol, died
  23. 1959: Taught a course, Social Work and the Law, New York University School of Social Work
  24. 1960s: Filed Briefs Amici in United States Supreme Court in cases involving children
  25. 1962: Helen L. Buttenwieser 's firm represented spy, Robert Soblen, and Alger Hiss in attempt to reopen his case
  26. 1965-1973: Board of Directors, Volunteer Opportunities, Inc.
  27. 1968: Admitted to practice before United States Supreme Court
  28. 1969: Established Joint Foundation Support, Inc., coalition of small foundations
  29. 1970s-1980s: Volunteer Master in Federal Court, southern district of New York
  30. 1974?: Board of Directors, Fortune Society
  31. 1979-1983: First woman elected chairman of Legal Aid Society Board
  32. 1980: Awarded Louis Dembitz Brandeis Medal for Distinguished Legal Service, Brandeis University
  33. 1983: Received Legal Aid Society Servant of Justice award
  34. 1988: "Roasted" by Association of the Bar of the City of New York at annual Twelfth Night party
  35. 1989: Received Horace Mann Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Service
Helen L. Buttenwieser was, in her own words, a "...specialist in matrimonial problems, custody disputes, and in representing child care agencies and the children under their care" (affidavit, January 7, 1981: see #1 in the collection). She was chairman of the New York City Committee on Adoptions and was particularly concerned with handicapped and foster children; the Buttenwiesers acted as foster parents for many children.

In addition to the organizations noted above, Buttenwieser was also a member of the American Bar Association, New York Women's Bar Association, and New York County Lawyers' Association; she was an investor in The Nation, an occasional lecturer at the schools of social work of Fordham and Columbia universities, a labor arbitrator, and president of the New York Federation of Jewish Charities. Connecticut College and Brandeis University conferred honorary degrees on Buttenwieser.

Helen L. Buttenwieser died in New York City on November 22, 1989.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in two series:
  1. Series I. Personal and biographical (#1-15f)
  2. Series II. Correspondence (#16-56)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 90-M123

The papers of Helen L. Buttenwieser were given to the Schlesinger Library in July 1990 by her heirs via her son and executor, Lawrence B. Buttenwieser.

Container List

  1. Box 1: 1-29
  2. Box 2: 30-56
INDEX OF SELECTED CORRESPONDENTS This index includes the names of selected writers and recipients. Information about persons and subjects is not indexed.

Key No symbol = Writer

* = Writer and recipient

# = Recipient

The numbers refer to folders.
INDEX OF SELECTED CORRESPONDENTS
  1. American Civil Liberties Union see also Glasser, Ira; Carliner, D.
  2. American Civil Liberties Union 32, 50*
  3. American Jewish Committee 3
  4. Ames, Oakes 22, 25#, 33, 37, 40
  5. Ames, Oakes see also Connecticut College
  6. Association of the Bar of the City of New York 45, 55
  7. Auchincloss, Louis S. 1#, 22, 25#, 46#
  8. Bank Street College 48
  9. Barnard College 7*, 49
  10. Bass, Audrey De Jong 43
  11. Bates, Bethlyn 33
  12. Beggin, Gussie 22, 25#, 33, 34#, 40*, 52*, 53#, 55
  13. Bernhard family 23, 25#, 33#, 46*
  14. Bernstein, Marver H. 39
  15. Bingham, June and Jonathan 22, 25#, 48
  16. Bird, Kai 46
  17. Blume, Mary 35*, 36
  18. Brandeis University 7, 38, 39
  19. Brill, Sal and Ralph 44*
  20. Bronfman family 37#, 45*, 46#, 55#
  21. Business and Professional Women's Foundation 35*
  22. Buttenwieser family 4#, 21, 23*, 24#, 25#, 31#, 33*, 34*, 37#, 38*, 39*, 41, 42#, 43*, 49, 50, 52*, 53#, 55
  23. Carliner, David 48
  24. Chambers, David L. 39
  25. Christie, Manson and Woods International, Inc. 40*
  26. Citizens Committee for Children 41#, 42#, 46#
  27. Citizens for Family Planning 42
  28. Clark [Ramsey] Wulf and Levine 30*
  29. Cohen, Myron D. 26, 55#
  30. Columbia University 23, 25#, 32, 42, 43*, 45*, 46*, 51*
  31. Committee for Political Courage 34
  32. Connecticut College 1#, 40#, 41#, 42*, 48*, 50, 51*, 52#
  33. D'Amato, Alfonse 43*
  34. Dax, Olga 48*
  35. de Villiers, Moira and Rene 36*, 37*, 39*, 40*, 49*, 53*, 55*
  36. Edelman, Marian Wright 23, 25#
  37. Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill 34
  38. Federation of Jewish Philanthropies 3
  39. Ferry, Elinor 41, 51#
  40. Forger, Alexander A. 33#
  41. Forsch, Albert 49
  42. Frankel, Max 31#
  43. Ginsberg, Mitchell I. 28*, 51*
  44. Glasser, I. Leo 34*, 37*
  45. Glasser, Ira 35, 45*
  46. Goodhart family 30, 31*, 42*, 46*, 54*
  47. Goulianos, K. 33*
  48. Greenberg, Diana 32#, 39#, 43#, 44*, 54#
  49. Gross, Beverly 32#
  50. Harris, Jean S. 38#
  51. Herbert Lehman Education Fund 43*
  52. Herbert Lehman Education Fund see also Bass, A. De Jong
  53. Hirschhorn, Joan 36*
  54. Hobson, Timothy 36#
  55. Hunter, Althea 37#
  56. Hunter, Therese and Charles 44#
  57. Hunter-Gault, Charlayne and Ronald 23, 54#
  58. Joint Foundation Support, Inc. 22, 25#, 50, 51#
  59. Joint Foundation Support, Inc. see also Legal Action Center
  60. Keene, Constance 22, 25#, 52*
  61. Klingenstein, Dee 28*, 34#, 36*, 37#, 41*, 45#, 48#
  62. Klopfer, Donald 31*
  63. Knopf, Alfred A. 31*
  64. Kollek, Teddy 29*
  65. Kroeger, Susan 4
  66. Leake and Watts Children's Homes, Inc. 23, 25#, 37*, 51*, 52*
  67. Legal Action Center 35
  68. Legal Aid Society 23, 25#, 27*, 49
  69. Legal Aid Society see also Forger, A.A., Storrow, J., Liman, A.
  70. Levin, Sander M. 46, 51*
  71. Lewisohn family 19*, 37#
  72. Liman, Arthur 23, 25#
  73. Lindley, Agnes 36*, 37, 44#, 51*
  74. Loeb family 19#, 21, 23, 24#, 25#, 30#, 35*, 36*, 42#, 53#
  75. Lovett, Robert A. 22*
  76. McCloy, John J. 22*, 25#
  77. Mangum, Robert J. 27*
  78. Marks, Leah 41*
  79. Meals for Millions/Freedom from Hunger Foundation 45
  80. Morello, Karen Berger 45
  81. Motley, Constance Baker 22, 25#
  82. Murphy, Pat and Patrick J. 27*, 44*, 46#
  83. Murray, Archibald R. 23, 25#
  84. Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) 35*
  85. NAACP Legal Defense Fund 28*, 32
  86. National Committee for Citizens in Education 35
  87. Navasky, Victor 31#
  88. Neier, Aryeh 36*
  89. Newbold, Elly 35*
  90. New York Law Journal 42*
  91. New York Post 37
  92. New York State Bar Association 36*
  93. Nicholson, Bronwen 42*, 45*
  94. Oakes, Margery and John B. 22, 25#
  95. Picker, Harvey 22, 23, 25#, 55*, 56*
  96. Pilpel, Harriet F. 27*
  97. Pisani, Joseph R. 30*
  98. Polier, Justine Wise 42*
  99. Pollen, Peregrine 38*, 41
  100. Prager, Annabelle Forsch 49*, 51
  101. Redlich, Norman 22, 25#, 27*, 48#
  102. Reynolds, Anna 30*, 35*, 40*, 42#, 43, 45#, 48*, 49, 55*
  103. Rosenheim, Margaret K. 46*, 48*
  104. Rosenwald, Harold 31*, 34*, 36*, 46#
  105. Rothschild, Maurine 34*
  106. Ruckert, Marie 34#, 35#, 37#, 41*
  107. Ruebhausen, Oscar M. 23, 25#, 44
  108. Selznick, Daniel 45*
  109. Sharpe, Elly 33*
  110. Shea, Felice K. 22, 25#
  111. Sheinbaum, Stanley, K. 28*, 34*
  112. Shipway, Anna, see Reynolds, A.
  113. Smythe, Mabel M. 44*, 48
  114. Steinzor, Bernard 38
  115. Storrow, James 44*
  116. Sturz, Herbert 22, 25#, 30#
  117. Suzman, Helen 16*, 17*, 18*
  118. Vogel, Helen and John H. 23, 25#, 40*
  119. Wald, Michael S. 39
  120. Weinstein, Jack B. 37*, 39, 43*, 46*, 53#, 54
  121. Wershba, Joe 42*, 53*, 54*, 55*
  122. Werthan, Mary Jane 29*
  123. Westin, Alan F. 30*
  124. Wise, Stephanie L. 35#, 39*, 53*
  125. Wood, Sue and Michael 36#, 44*, 52#
  126. Yivo Institute for Jewish Research 43*

Processing Information

Processed: February 1994

By: Bert Hartry
Link to catalog
Title
Buttenwieser, Helen L.. Papers of Helen L. Buttenwieser, 1909-1990 (inclusive), 1968-1990 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
EAD ID
sch00005

Repository Details

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