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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 854

Additional papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer, 1857-1998


Addenda to the papers (A-127) of Ethel Sturges Dummer, including correspondence, family papers, and writings.


  • Creation: 1857-1998

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Ethel Sturges Dummer as well as 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.


5.67 linear feet ((9 file boxes and 1 half file box) plus 1 folio folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 oversize volume, 4 photograph folders)

This collection consists mostly of 19th and 20th century family correspondence of the Sturges, Dummer, and Fisher families, and the professional correspondence of Ethel Sturges Dummer, social welfare leader, philanthropist and author. Additional material (accession numbers 74-62--98-M101) was added to the collection in February 2016. This material is located in Series I (#45-64o) and Series II (#65-137).

SERIES I, CORRESPONDENCE AND FAMILY PAPERS, 1857-1973 (#1-64o) includes biographical material, early school work, correspondence, photographs, poetry, etc. The bulk of the series consists of family correspondence, and documents birth, marriages, and deaths in the family. Also documented is Mary Delafield Sturges' early experiences with courtship which she shares with her cousin "Jen"; Ethel Sturges Dummer's and her sister's (Marion Sturges) time at school in Washington, DC (1886-1887); her brother's (W. Delafield Sturges) time spent in New Mexico and Arizona for his health, where he discusses his time at Camp Riordan, various hunting trips, interactions with native tribes, and the cattle and lumbering industries of the area (1885); Ethel Sturges Dummer's visits with her brother, W. Delafield Sturges (ca.1885); a family trip to Boston (1894); W. Delafield Sturges' and Albert Sturges' time at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire (1880s); a trip made by Ethel Sturges Dummer to Alaska with Lieutenant Setree and his wife Annie Bridgeman Setree (1886-1887); etc. Correspondence between Walter T. Fisher and his wife Katharine (Dummer) Fisher, which consist mostly of letters sent by Walter T. Fisher, documents his time working for the United States Shipping Board (1918), the War Finance Corporation (1920s), and the law firm of Fisher, Boyden, Kales, and Bell (1920s-onward), as well as a trip to the Southwest United States, visiting the Grand Canyon and other sites (1940-1949). Biographical material includes obituaries, clippings, etc. of various family members. The series is arranged chronologically. Additional material was added to this series in February 2016 and is located in #45-64o.

SERIES II, RESEARCH MATERIALS OF LOUISE YOUNG, 1880-1998 (#65-137) includes correspondence; research notes; autobiographical, biographical, and genealogical material; draft and published writings; clippings; etc. This material was compiled by Louise Young for her investigation into the life of Ethel Sturges Dummer. In 1957 Louise Young, an associate professor at American University in Washington, DC, applied for and received a grant from the American Philosophical Society to conduct research in the papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer, then in the possession of Dummer's heirs. She made three trips to Winnetka, Illinois, to meet with members of the Sturges, Dummer, and Fisher families to review the papers, and make typescript excerpts and copies of the originals so that she could work with them in Washington, DC. Initially Young focused on Dummer's intellectual and philanthropic activities, but as she continued her research she became increasingly interested in Dummer's relationships with and financial support of a number of prominent psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, etc., including Adolf Meyer, Thomas D. Eliot, W. I. Thomas, William Alanson White, Trigant Burrow, Miriam Van Waters, Katharine Anthony, Jesse Taft, et al., and her attempt to put their theories into practice in the realms of social work and education. Following this initial research, Young maintained contact with the Fisher family, continuing to conduct research in the papers, with both copies and original materials being sent to her by the family until approximately 1964. While Young did complete a report regarding the research value of the material as a condition of the grant, it appears that she never completed the book that she had planned. In agreement with the family Young donated her research material to be added to the collection. Much of the material consists of copies of original correspondence that is likely in the Papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer (A-127), but interspersed among the copies are original professional and personal letters that had been loaned to Young by the family. Also included are subject files, published and draft writings, speeches, etc., that were part of Dummer's original files. Young's research notes, chronologies, genealogical lists, correspondence with Dummer's friends and family, grant material, etc. are also included in this series. Original file titles were retained, although slightly modified for clarity. The series is arranged alphabetically.


Ethel Sturges Dummer, a social welfare leader, philanthropist and author, was born in Chicago in 1866, the oldest of six daughters and third of nine children born to Mary (Delafield) Sturges and George Sturges. She graduated in 1885 from the Kirkland School in Chicago and continued to be involved with the social welfare concerns of the school through the Kirkland Alumnae Association. In 1888, Ethel Sturges married William Francis Dummer (1851-1928). A prominent Chicago banker, William Francis Dummer was also active in local social welfare and conservation organizations. The Dummers had four daughters, and one son who died in infancy.

Ethel Sturges Dummer's early interest in local reform was prompted largely by her acquaintance with such reform leaders as Ellen Gates Starr, Mary E. MacDowell and Allen B. Pond. A growing interest in child labor reform led her in 1905 to join the National Child Labor Committee and the Chicago Juvenile Protective Association. In 1908 she became a founder and trustee of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, later the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Beginning with financial support for a lecture series for this school, Ethel Sturges Dummer continued for the rest of her life to underwrite the efforts of local and national reformers. Her philanthropy extended to projects such as the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute (1909); work with prostitutes and unwed mothers during World War I; support (c. 1919-1920) for El Retiro, a girls' detention home in Los Angeles directed by penologist Miriam Van Waters, and the latter's published studies of delinquent girls (1922 and 1925). During the Depression, she helped finance several other private studies of adolescents. She and her daughter, Ethel Dummer Mintzer, director of the Francis W. Parker School in San Diego, worked together closely in the promotion of "Boole Blocks," a mathematical teaching aid developed by Ethel Dummer Mintzer and named after Mary Everest Boole, whose ideas about unconscious behavior are discussed in Ethel Sturges Dummer's Mary E. Boole: A Pioneer Student of the Unconscious (1945). In 1940 Ethel Sturges Dummer received an honorary degree from Northwestern University and subsequently sponsored child development courses there.

Other writings by Ethel Sturges Dummer include her autobiography, Why I Think So--The Autobiography of an Hypothesis (1937); prefaces to The Unadjusted Girl by William I. Thomas (1923), The Unconscious: A Symposium (1928), and The Collected Works of Mary Everest Boole (1931); The Evolution of a Biological Faith (1943); and What is Thought? (1945). For the last seven years of her life Ethel Sturges Dummer lived with her daughter Katharine Dummer Fisher in Winnetka, Illinois. She died there in 1954.

Katharine Dummer Fisher (1892-1961), daughter of Ethel Sturges Dummer and William Francis Dummer, was a civic leader in Chicago, Illinois. She was married to Walter T. Fisher, a lawyer, in 1915. The couple had six children. Her interests included the educational and psychological development of young children. In 1940 and 1950 she attended White House conferences on children. She was a member of the advisory board on youth and community services of the Illinois department of public works from 1949-1953. Her home in Winnetka was also a back-yard nursery school. The League of Women Voters, both nationally and locally, were life-long interests. She held offices in both. She was on the board of the National League of Women Voters from 1939-1944, and President of the Illinois League of Women Voters from 1945-1949. Fisher was also active politically. She took part in the movement for a new state constitution for Illinois and in Adlai Stevenson's campaigns for President of the United States. She died in 1961.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Correspondence and family papers, 1857-1973 (#1-64o)
  2. Series II. Research materials of Louise Young, 1880-1998 (#65-137)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession no.: 80-M151. Accession numbers 74-62, 87-M103, 89-M85, 96-M99, 96-M128, and 98-M101 were added to the collection in February 2016.

Addenda to the papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mrs. Howard Fisher in March 1974; Louise Young in August 1980 and July 1987; Walter Fisher, her son-in-law, in May 1989; and Ethel (Mintzer) Lichtman, her granddaughter, in June and February 1996 and June 1998.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Ethel Sturges Dummer Papers, 1766-1962 (A-127).


Throughout the collection, members of the Sturges and Dummer families are referred to by a variety of nicknames. Listed below are those commonly appearing.

  1. Ethel Sturges Dummer: "Appie"
  2. Ethel Dummer Mintzer: "Happy"
  3. Mrs. Albert Sturges: "Aunt Lila"
  4. Clara Sturges: "Cal", "Jal"
  5. Helen Sturges: "Hen", "Pen"
  6. Marion Sturges: "Daisy", "Dee"
  7. Rosalie Sturges: "Tom"


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-33
  2. Box 2: Folders 34-51
  3. Box 3: Folders 52-67
  4. Box 4: Folders 68-80
  5. Box 5: Folders 81-90
  6. Box 6: Folders 91-98
  7. Box 7: Folders 99-107
  8. Box 8: Folders 108-118
  9. Box 9: Folders 119-134
  10. Box 10: Folders 135-137
  11. Box 11: Folder 44vo

Processing Information

Date: September 1980

By: Sharman T. Propp

Updated and additional materials added: February 2016

By: Mark Vassar with assistance from Dan Bullman.

Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. Additional papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer, 1857-1998: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women
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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