Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 541

Papers of Winifred Quick Collins, ca.1913-2000 (inclusive), 1937-1999 (bulk)


Correspondence, drafts of an autobiography, records of service in the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) and U.S. Navy, photographs, and other papers of U.S. Navy Captain Winifred Quick Collins


  • Creation: 1913-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1937-1999

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Winifred Quick Collins 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.


6.17 linear feet ((11 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 1 folio folder, 6 folio + folders, 2 oversize folders, 24 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 3 folio+ photograph folder, 2 videotapes, 1 motion picture film, 1 phonograph record)

This collection documents the personal and professional life of Captain Winifred Quick Collins.. The bulk consists of clippings; photographs; correspondence relating to her career in the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), the U.S. Naval Reserve, and United States Navy; and drafts of her autobiography. The remainder includes correspondence regarding the many awards given to and scholarships funded by Collins; information about the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration; articles, scrapbook, resumes, etc., belonging to her husband, Rear Admiral Howard Lyman Collins; military medals; and audiovisual materials. Folder arrangement and most folder titles are those of the processor; folder titles in quotation marks are those of Winifred Collins.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1926-1999 (#1.1-4.12, F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, OD.2), is arranged in two subseries, each arranged alphabetically.

Subseries A, Biographical, 1926-1999 (#1.1-4.4, OD.1, F+D.1), includes Collins' birth certificate, articles about her, marriage certificates, awards, diaries, resumes, and drafts of More than a Uniform: A Navy Woman in a Navy Man's World (1997).

Subseries B, Rear Admiral Howard Lyman Collins, 1945-1985 (#4.5-4.12, F+D.2-F+D.6, OD.2), consists of articles about his son Captain John Collins, resumes, Legion of Merit citation, correspondence, information about his retirement ceremony, and his death certificate; also includes a Christmas card photograph of Howard Collins and first wife Peggy Collins and their two sons (Howard Collins, Jr., and John Collins).

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, ca.1913-2000 (#4.13-5.9), contains family correspondence with Winifred Collins' mother Mary Redden, sister Evelyn Nichols, brother Lawrence Redden, step-son Captain John Collins and his wife Barbara; general correspondence; letters from Radcliffe College, and correspondence regarding the many awards given to and scholarships funded by Collins.

Series III, HARVARD-RADCLIFFE PROGRAM IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, 1937-1997 (#5.10-6.1), consists of correspondence, anniversary information, articles, program reports by Collins while attending the program, speeches by Collins, and obituaries of classmates. In the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration series, the 25th Anniversary is counted from 1938, the year the first class graduated; the 50th and 60th anniversaries are counted from 1937, the year the first class started.

Series IV, U.S. NAVY AND RELATED ORGANIZATIONS, 1942-1998 (#6.2-12.2), is arranged in four subseries: Naval personnel records, WAVES, U.S. Navy, and Navy League.

Subseries A, Naval personnel records, 1942-1962 (#6.2-7.8), consists of Collins' appointments to the WAVES and U.S. Navy; and various orders, including her retirement.

Subseries B, WAVES, 1942-1998 (#7.9-9.16, FD.1, F+D.1, Vt-145, MP-54, Phon-47), contains anniversary material, articles, booklets, cartoons, the WAVES Newsletter, songbooks, and speeches about the WAVES given by Collins. Also included are bulletins (1953-1972) written by the Assistant Chiefs for Women (including Collins) and which track, among other things, changes in the uniforms during this twenty-year period. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, U.S. Navy, 1945-1998 (#9.17-11.8), contains biographies and obituaries arranged alphabetically, correspondence and photographs taken by Rear Admiral and Captain Collins of the Helping Hands Foundation trip to Vietnam, memoranda, speeches, Recruit Training-Women yearbook, and articles and booklets from the United States Navy Hospital Ship Haven. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries D, Navy League, 1957-1999 (#11.9-12.2), arranged alphabetically, consists of articles, correspondence, speeches by Collins about the Navy League, and information about their public affairs program.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, AUDIOVISUAL, OVERSIZED, AND MEMORABILIA, ca.1913-1998 (#PD.1-PD.28f+, Vt-145.1-Vt.145.2, MP-54.1, Phon-47.1, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, OD.2, 13F+B.1m-13F+B.16m ) is arranged in four subseries: photographs, videotapes, audiovisual, oversized material, and memorabilia.

Subseries A, Photographs, ca.1913-1998 (#PD.1-PD.25f+), contains official Navy photographs, formal portraits and snapshots of Collins, mostly in uniform, and of her friends and family. Included are images of WAVES during World War II, and celebrating subsequent anniversaries. 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 [*].

Subseries B, Audiovisual, 1962-1998 (#MP-54.1, Vt-145.1-Vt.145.2, Phon-47.1), contains motion picture film of WAVES in Hawaii, ca.1945; phonograph record of WAVES songs from the 20th Anniversary, 1962; C-SPAN interview on videotape, and amateur videotape of the WAVES National Convention in Hawaii, 1998.

Subseries C, Oversized,1942-1997 (#FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, OD.2), contains the scrapbook This Is Your Wife, Saturday Evening Post covers, commission certificates, and items removed from folders as specified.

Subseries D, Memorabilia, 1944-1997 (#13F+B.1m-13F+B.16m), contains Collins' medals and pins, as well as commemorative pieces.


Winifred Quick Collins was born Winifred Mary Redden in Great Falls, Montana, on November 26, 1911, the third child of Daniel A. and Mary Winifred (Farrell) Redden. Older sister Evelyn (1904-1972), older brother Daniel (1906-), and younger brother Lawrence (1922-), rounded out the family, which was well-off during Winnie's early years. When Collins was ten, the Reddens bought a small hotel in Missoula, Montana. Within a year, however, they divorced; Daniel moved to the west coast, leaving the hotel to Mary. That same year, Collins contracted polio and was nursed back to health by her eighteen-year-old sister.

Eventually, Mary Redden sold the hotel and joined with another woman in running a boarding house. Collins' father disapproved of these living arrangements for his youngest daughter, and sent her to a Catholic boarding school. When Collins returned home to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, she discovered that her mother and youngest brother had moved, leaving no forwarding address. Four months later, she received a brief note from her mother postmarked Lewiston, Idaho, that included a clue that she was working at a bakery. When Collins found her in Lewiston that summer, her mother immediately took Collins to a Catholic hospital where she lived while working for her room and board.

In 1925, at age fourteen, Collins moved to Missouri to live with her sister and brother-in-law. Within a few months however, Collins realized that her brother-in-law's attentions were inappropriate, and left to live with an aunt in Oregon. In 1928 she moved to Seattle, Washington, where she shared her older brother Daniel's one-room apartment, sleeping while he worked nights. Despite attending school in four different states, Collins graduated high school on schedule in 1929. After working full time for a year, she received both a scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC), and a part-time job from Lucien Brunswig, president of the Brunswig Drug Corporation. Graduating in 1935 with a B.S. in business administration, she became the company's personnel director, and married her first husband, Roy Quick, in 1935. In 1937, Collins was recommended by her USC professors for a new program at Radcliffe College, where women would be taught management training by Harvard Business School faculty. Realizing the opportunity this represented for Collins, Brunswig once again financed her education. Leaving California and her unhappy marriage to become one of five women to graduate with the first class in the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration (1938), she returned to California to become the director of the Junior Counseling and Placement Department for Pasadena Junior College. She did not rejoin her husband, however, and their divorce was finalized in 1941.

Ada Comstock, president of Radcliffe College, telephoned Collins in June 1942, requesting that she go to the Naval Procurement Office in Los Angeles and meet with the selection committee for the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES). Five days after the U.S. Navy Women's Reserve was activated, Collins was commissioned an ensign, the lowest ranking officer in the U.S. Navy. After the month-long Naval indoctrination at Smith College, Collins was chosen personally by the commanding officer of the training school, Captain Underwood, to be his personnel director. Two months later she was spot-promoted to lieutenant junior grade. Increasing numbers of women joined the WAVES, and Collins was sent to Washington, D.C., to work in the Bureau of Naval Personnel. She, along with eleven other officers, analyzed Naval shore jobs and determined what skills the WAVES would need. In the fall of 1944 Collins was sent to Hawaii as the District Personnel Officer to arrange sleeping quarters, recreational facilities, jobs, and mess halls for the planned arrival of 5,000 WAVES. After the war ended in 1945, she was put in charge of releasing the WAVES back to civilian duty, was spot-promoted to lieutenant commander, and received the Bronze Star.

Returning to Washington, D.C., in 1946, Collins helped plan for the eventual acceptance of women into the regular Navy, working out policies and procedures, job assignments, and necessary training. In June 1948, Collins and eight other WAVES officers were sworn in as commissioned officers of the U.S. Navy. Sent to Stanford University with other officers for graduate study in 1951, she received her master's degree in education (1952), and became Assistant Director of Naval Personnel for an area that encompassed Nevada, Utah, and Northern California. In 1953, Collins became one of two women commanders in the Navy, and when the Personnel Director retired that same year, he recommended her as his replacement. This assignment was the highest ever held by a female officer in the Navy, with a staff of 350 Naval personnel. Collins remained Director until 1956, when she was assigned to London as Senior Assistant, Staff of Commander in Chief, Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Remaining in this post until the summer of 1957, she was promoted to captain and Chief of Naval Personnel for Women. Collins was the only female captain, and senior-ranking woman in the Navy for the next five years. According to her autobiography, More than a Uniform: A Navy Woman in a Navy Man's World (1997), "...I set standards for the performance of duties and dealt with discipline, housing, uniforming, promotions, retirement, education, and publicity. ...I needed to work on the problems of poor quality in recruiting for both officers and enlisted women, impediments to career development, inadequate housing and recreation, low morale, poor self-image, and negative public attitudes." (p. 126, 129)

Collins retired from the Navy in 1962, after marrying retired Rear Admiral Howard Lyman Collins the previous year. Howard Collins, who died in 1984, had two sons from his first marriage, Howard Lyman Collins, Jr., and John Collins. The latter retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. After retirement, Winifred Collins became the first woman National Vice President of the Navy League (1965), first woman director of the Retired Officer Association (1964), first woman director for Corn Products International (1977), first woman trustee of the United States Naval Academy Foundation (1977), and the first woman named to the Navy League's Hall of Fame (1990). Collins died in Washington, D.C., in May 1999, from the cancer she had been battling for years.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal
  2. Series II. Correspondence
  3. Series III. Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration
  4. Series IV. United States Navy and Related Organizations
  5. Series V. Photographs, Audiovisual, Oversized, and Memorabilia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 99-M74

The papers of Winifred Quick Collins were given to the Schlesinger Library by the estate of Winifred Quick Collins in May 1999.


Donors: Winifred Quick Collins

Accession number: 99-M74

Processed by: Cat Lea Holbrook

The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. WAVES National. Navy women, 1908-1988 : a pictorial history. (2 vols.). [California.?] : WAVES National, 1990 [transferred to the Schlesinger Library's book collection].
  2. Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration (HRPBA) The Newsletter, 1966-1987 [discarded; copies in Radcliffe College Archives].
  3. Green and white marble paperweight from University of Southern California's School of Business Administration [returned].
  4. Small, round, gold desk clock from University of Southern California's School of Business Administration, [returned].
  5. Phonograph record, Charleston/Charles-Towne, by Corky Hart, n.d. [returned].
  6. Military medals of Howard Lyman Collins, [returned].

Processing Information

Processed: March 2007

By: Cat Lea Holbrook

Collins, Winifred Quick, 1911-1999. Papers of Winifred Quick Collins, ca.1913-2000 (inclusive), 1937-1999 (bulk): 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 gifts from the Elsie Rodd Fund in the Schlesinger Library, the Steiner Book and Manuscript Fund, and the Zetlin Sisters Fund.

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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA