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COLLECTION Identifier: M-136, reel A1; WRC

Papers of Molly Dewson in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915-1960


Correspondence, photograph, fliers, reports, etc., of Molly Dewson, suffragist and reformer. These papers are part of the Woman's Rights Collection.


  • Creation: 1915-1960


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Molly Dewson 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.


9 folders
5 Volumes

This series consists of correspondence, a photograph, fliers, reports, legal briefs, writings, speeches, clippings, and printed campaign material; it documents Molly Dewson's involvement in the suffrage movement, the minimum wage battle, the National Consumers' League, and the Democratic Party.


Mary ("Molly") Williams Dewson (1874-1962) was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, earned an A.B. from Wellesley College (1897), and was then secretary of the Domestic Reform Committee of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union in Boston. She left this position in 1900 to become the superintendent of parole at the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls, Lancaster, where she remained until 1912. There she met Mary ("Polly") Porter (1884-1972), an intern and then a volunteer at the school. By 1910, Dewson and Porter had formed a "partnership" that lasted until Dewson's death.

After running a small dairy farm with Porter (1913-1917), Dewson returned to reform work, especially the woman's suffrage movement and the National Consumers' League campaign for minimum wage laws for women and children. During World War I Dewson and Porter spent 15 months with the American Red Cross's Bureau of Refugees in France.

In the late 1920s, convinced that needed reforms could best be achieved through the political parties, Dewson initiated efforts to increase the number of women active in the Democratic Party. She organized women to work in Alfred E. Smith's presidential campaign (1928), and in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New York gubernatorial race (1930) and his subsequent bids for the presidency. In 1933 Dewson became head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee; she is credited with securing important positions for many women in the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. She also served on the Social Security Board (1937-1938). In 1952, Dewson and Porter settled in the Porter family house in Castine, Maine, where Dewson died in 1962.

For additional biographical information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), Who Was Who in America (1961-1968), and Partner And I: The Life of Molly Dewson, New Deal Politician, by Susan Ware (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers of Mary Williams Dewson fill nine folders and five volumes of the Woman's Rights Collection, which was given to Radcliffe College in August 1943 and formed the nucleus of the Women's Archives, later the Schlesinger Library. The material in this series was prepared for microfilming in August 1991 by Bert Hartry. It was microfilmed as part of a Schlesinger Library/University Publications of America project.

Related Material:

This material forms part of the Schlesinger Library's Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 (WRC).

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Molly Dewson papers, 1893-1962 (A-60; M-136) and Molly Dewson albums, 1861-1962 (M-120).

Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers of Molly Dewson in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915-1960: 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.

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