Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: A-127: M-55

Papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer, 1689-1962


Correspondence, writings, photographs, etc., of Ethel Sturges Dummer, Chicago social welfare leader, philanthropist, and author.


  • 1689-1962

Language of Materials

Materials in English, French, or German.

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.


23.06 linear feet (53 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 2 oversize folders, 1 oversize volume, 1 supersize folder, 35 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 microfilm reel (M-55)

The collection consists of personal and professional correspondence, reports, minutes of meetings, photographs, speeches, and articles by and about Ethel Sturges Dummer. It documents her efforts in behalf of juvenile delinquents, prostitutes and illegitimate children; her interest in progressive education and public schools in Chicago; and her work with leaders in the mental hygiene movement. In addition to Ethel Sturges Dummer's correspondence with prominent sociologists, psychiatrists, social workers and educators, the collection contains family papers including eighteenth century papers of the Sturges and Dummer families, both prominent in early Illinois history.

SERIES I, FAMILY PAPERS, 1689-1954 (#1-214c, Volumes 1-3), includes correspondence, genealogical materials, photographs, educational materials, clippings, etc. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence, the majority of which is between Ethel Sturges Dummer and her husband, William Francis Dummer. Their correspondence documents their courtship and early marriage, several trips to Europe and Southern California, and vacations at their summer home on Coronado Island in California. Correspondence between Francis Dummer and Ethel Sturges Dummer includes mention of family births, deaths, and marriages as well as Francis Dummers work in farming and discussion about various varieties of hybridized corn. Throughout her correspondence, Dummer discusses her intellectual and philanthropic activities and 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, particularly in her correspondence with daughter Ethel Dummer Mintzer where she frequently discusses the work of mathematician Mary Everest Boole and and the "Boole Blocks" developed by Mintzer as a teaching aid. Educational materials consist of class notebooks and her commencement address while attending the Kirkland School in Chicago. Other class notebooks are from a number classes that Dummer attended at an unidentified school in Washington, DC in 1886. Genealogical materials document the Sturges, Delafield, and Dummer families. Photographs are of Ethel Sturges Dummer, William Francis Dummer, the Dummer children, Sturges family members, professional colleagues including Jane Addams and Miriam Van Waters, etc.

SERIES II, PROFESSIONAL PAPERS OF ETHEL STURGES DUMMER, 1906-1954 (#215-880, Volume 4-7b), were divided into two categories: those arranged by subject and those arranged by correspondent. The papers on education, mental hygiene, the family, and delinquency include correspondence as well as minutes of meetings, reports, and Ethel Sturges Dummer's notes. Correspondence, minutes, reports, etc. in this series documents Dummer's intellectual and philanthropic activities and 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. This material documents specific projects supported by Dummer, both financially and intellectually, including El Retiro, a girls' detention home in Los Angeles directed by penologist Miriam Van Waters, private studies of adolescents, and a number of conferences in the fields of psychology, sociology, education, etc. Also documented in minutes, reports, and notes is Dummer's work as a committee member for various organizations including the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy; Chicago Recreation Commission; the Chicago Joint Committee on Education; the Chicago Public Schools' Progressive Education Committee, Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, and Superintendant of Schools' Advisory Council; Illinois Society for Mental Hygiene, etc. Researchers interested in particular correspondents should check the subject as well as the correspondence series. It appears that folders #452, 456, 495, 568, 666, 731, 741, and 772 were created as cross references and that no actual folders exist in these cases. Instead researchers are directed to view folders in the previous topical subseries to see correspondence by the individuals listed in the folder titles.

The papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer's daughter, Katharine Dummer Fisher, form an addendum to this collection that is included in this inventory (folder #881-1002). The Addenda covers the period from 1897 to 1961. Among the correspondents in the addenda are Edna Fischel Gellhorn, Adlai Stevenson, Kathryn H. Stone, Anna Lord Strauss, and Marguerite M. Wells.

SERIES III, PERSONAL PAPERS OF KATHARINE DUMMER FISHER, 1897-1962 (#881-968, Mem.1-Mem.2) includes correspondence, appointment books, articles, poetry, report cards, etc. Much of the correspondence is between Ethel Sturges Dummer and Katharine Dummer Fisher and documents Fisher's time at Radcliffe College (1910-1914), the marriage of her sister Marion to Don Abbot, Ethel Sturges Dummer's time in California recuperating from tuberculosis, Dummer family vacations at Coronado Island. Correspondence with her husband, Walter Taylor Fisher, consists mainly of family news with occasional references to his work while away from the family. Also included is a small amount of correspondence with Miriam Van Waters. Other material in the series consists of poetry written by Katharine Dummer Fisher and articles written by Katharine Dummer (regarding education and child development) and Walter Taylor Fisher (regarding law); appointment calendars that include both personal appointments and her many activities with the Winnetka League of Women Voters: and a ribbon and sash from a suffrage parade in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1916 in which Fisher participated as an aide to attendees.

SERIES IV, PAPERS OF KATHARINE DUMMER FISHER FROM TNE WINNETKA LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS. 1937-1961 (#969-1002), includes correspondence, flyers, clippings, speeches, notes, etc. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence which documents Fisher's work with the National League of Women Voters, Illinois League of Women Voters, and the Winnetka League of Women Voters in which she served in several capacities, including as national league treasurer and state league president. Many of the flyers and brochures in this series were designed by Fisher and regard topics such as the state constitution and jury duty. Other material includes clippings, notes, and speeches documenting Fisher's many appearances at league events that she attended or spoke. Also included is a history of the Illinois League of Women Voters written by Fisher.


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 but 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) was a civic leader in Chicago, Illinois. She was a graduate of Radcliffe College (1914). 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. Mrs. 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. Mrs. Fisher was the daughter of Ethel Sturges Dummer and William F. Dummer.


  1. Series I. Family papers, 1689-1954 (#1-214c, Volumes 1-3)
  2. Series III. Personal papers of Katharine Dummer Fisher, 1897-1962 (#881-968, Mem-1 - Mem-2)
  3. Series IV. Papers of Katharine Dummer Fisher from the Winnetka League of Women Voters, 1937-1961 (#969-1002)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 164, 238, 451, 473, 548, 602, 627, 630, 640, 72-41, 75-126, 75-160, 75-239, 75-402, 76-83

The papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer were given to the Schlesinger Library in 1960, 1972, 1975, and 1976 by Katharine Dummer Fisher, (Mrs. Walter T.Fisher), Marion Dummer Abbott (Mrs Donald P. Abbott), and Frances Dummer Logan Merriam (Mrs. Frank Merriam), and the three daughters of Ethel Dummer Mintzer (Mrs. Murney Mintzer) (who predeceased Ethel Sturges Dummer): Katharine Mintzer Gerlach, (Mrs. Lee Gerlach), Ethel Mintzer Lichtman, (Mrs. Morton Lichtman), Mary Delafield Mintzer Vaughn, "Polly" (Mrs. Richard Vaughn). These papers were partly reprocessed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, #RC 24669-76-987.

The papers of Katharine Dummer Fisher were deposited with the Schlesinger Library from 1960-1963 by Katharine Dummer Fisher, Walter T. Fisher, and the Winnetka League of Women Voters.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Ethel Sturges Dummer Additional papers, 1857-1945 (MC 854).


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-17, Volume 1-3
  2. Box 2: Folders 18-31
  3. Box 3: Folders 32-41
  4. Box 4: Folders 42-55
  5. Box 5: Folders 56-73
  6. Box 6: Folders 74-88
  7. Box 7: Folders 89-114
  8. Box 8: Folders 115-135
  9. Box 9: Folders 136-152
  10. Box 10: Folders 153-164
  11. Box 11: Folders 164a-169a
  12. Box 12: Folders 170-174
  13. Box 13: Folders 174a-178
  14. Box 14: Folders 178a-188
  15. Box 15: Folders 189-195
  16. Box 16: Folders 195a-198, 208-217
  17. Box 17: Folders 218-228
  18. Box 18: Folders 229-258
  19. Box 19: Folders 259-277
  20. Box 20: Folders 278-297, Volume 5-6
  21. Box 21: Folders Vol. 6a, 298-307
  22. Box 22: Folders 308-320
  23. Box 23: Folders 321-333
  24. Box 24: Folders 334-348
  25. Box 25: Folders 349-356, Volume 7-7b
  26. Box 26: Folders 357-377
  27. Box 27: Folders 378-397
  28. Box 28: Folders 398-413
  29. Box 29: Folders 414-446
  30. Box 30: Folders 447-472
  31. Box 31: Folders 473-496
  32. Box 32: Folders 497-516
  33. Box 33: Folders 517-523, 534-561
  34. Box 34: Folders 562-592
  35. Box 35: Folders 593-624
  36. Box 36: Folders 625-655
  37. Box 37: Folders 656-685
  38. Box 38: Folders 686-715
  39. Box 39: Folders 716-740
  40. Box 40: Folders 742-776
  41. Box 41: Folders 777-794
  42. Box 42: Folders 795-818
  43. Box 43: Folders 819-836
  44. Box 44: Folders 837-873
  45. Box 45: Folders 874-882
  46. Box 46: Folders 883-896
  47. Box 47: Folders 897-909
  48. Box 48: Folders 910-924
  49. Box 49: Folders 925-942
  50. Box 50: Folders 943-948f
  51. Box 51: Folders 949-960
  52. Box 52: Folders 961-983
  53. Box 53: Folders 984-998
  54. Folio Box 54: Volume 4f

Processing Information

Partly reprocessed: May 1979

By: Kathleen Marquis

Updated: August 2016

By: Mark Vassar with the assistance of Henry Shull, Meghan Pipp, and Dan Bullman

Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. Papers of Ethel Sturges Dummer, 1689-1962: 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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA