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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 929; T-545

Papers of Helen Morton, ca.1860-1992 (inclusive), 1914-1991 (bulk)


Correspondence, writings, notes, and other materials of social worker and community organizer Helen Morton.


  • 1860-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1914-1991

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Helen Morton 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.


12.3 linear feet ((29 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 8 photograph folders, 1 audiotape)
The papers of Helen Morton include correspondence, notes, reports, travel diaries, appointment books, printed materials, clippings, photographs, and one audiocassette of an interview with Morton. The bulk of material relates to Morton's activities with Christian groups, including the World Council of Churches, World Student Christian Federation, and the Young Women's Christian Association, as well as urban renewal organizations and settlement houses in Boston. Morton found an outlet for her interest in racial and social justice, group action, and social service through her affiliations with the settlement movement and ecumenical organizations. Morton built a stronger connection to religious life and its values through her work with international and national Christian groups and she helped foster this appreciation among others, especially students.

Morton may have arranged many of her papers later in life by decade or activity prior to their arrival at the Schlesinger Library, in preparation for writing her memoir, Highlights: 80 Years Worth Living. There are also drafts of memoir chapters throughout the collection. Original folder titles have been maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist.

Series I, PERSONAL, 1897-1990 (#1.1-8.8), includes correspondence with friends and colleagues, personal writings, Radcliffe graduate course notes, travel diaries, and appointment books. Correspondence includes information about Morton's work with the church and the South End neighborhood in Boston; references to organizations she was involved with, including the World Council of Churches and Emergency Tenants Council; personal greetings; Christmas cards; updates from friends; and invitations. Diaries (#3.5-3.9) relate to trips taken by Morton and her mother. Diary/appointment books (#3.10-6.3) contain mostly brief entries regarding appointments or activities, including work, travel, doctor visits, dinner with friends, etc. Newspaper clippings (#7.6-7.8), were collected by Morton and arranged by subject. Subjects include the church; elderly services; people involved in religious and settlement work; arts, primarily in Boston; and political, both national and local. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL AND VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES, 1918-1992 (#8.9-30.5) contains materials related to Morton's volunteer and salaried work in organizations, committees, and at conferences, as well as other professional activities associated with community outreach for the church, settlement work, and urban development. Types of materials include notes and speaking notes; correspondence; reports; writings, including draft chapters for her autobiography; printed materials and conference programs. Morton's community activities, her settlement work, and her involvement in Christian organizations were all closely connected. Because of this there is some overlap within and between each subseries. The range of topics is often noted in the folder descriptions.

Subseries A, Religious and international activities, 1920-1987 (#8.9-21.10), contains materials related to Morton's work with national and international Christian organizations, her international settlement and social work activities, and conferences. There are notes, printed materials, reports, writings, clippings, and correspondence related to her work and activities with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués (CIMADE), the World Council of Churches, and the University Christian Movement. Within the papers Morton often uses "Student Christian Movement" interchangeably with "University Christian Movement." In 1967 the Student Christian Movement officially changed its name to the University Christian Movement in New England. Among the international conferences that Morton attended were the Mexico seminar to foster understanding between Mexico and the United States, which was organized by the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America (1930) and numerous settlement house conferences throughout Europe (1920s-1930s). This subseries also includes notes and printed materials related to Morton's international travel to Egypt, Africa, India, and Japan. See series III for Morton's scrapbook related to her Young Women's Christian Association-sponsored trip to Japan (1963).

This subseries also includes chronological binders (disassembled) of Morton's life (#9.1-11.1). This material, now housed in folders, contain correspondence, notes, printed materials, writings, clippings, etc., related to Morton's activities and organized by Morton in a loosely chronological order. While the bulk of this material contains content related to Morton's religious and international activities, the binders also contain materials related to her community work in Boston. This overlap is generally noted in the folder descriptions. Of note are correspondence and other materials related to Morton's adoption of a child during her time working with CIMADE in Calais, France. Morton worked with CIMADE right after World War II where she met an orphaned teenager Jacques Marcq and adopted him, eventually bringing him back to the United States. She adopted Marcq as a single woman and referred to him as her godson. Related correspondence in this subseries reveal their relationship and the trajectory of his life, including his time in the United States military during the Korean War and his own family. See also Series I for correspondence and a clipping related to Marcq (#2.4, 7.7). This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Community work in Massachusetts, 1918-1992 (#22.1-30.5), includes meeting and planning materials, printed materials, correspondence, notes, and clippings related to Morton's social work efforts with organizations fostering community development and urban renewal, mostly in the South End of Boston. Included are correspondence, worksheets, long-range planning committee report, meeting minutes, and interview transcripts related to her work with the United South End Settlements (USES); meeting minutes, member lists, and officer reports for the 1917 Sewing Circle/Junior League of Boston; interview transcript with Morton, printed materials, and notes for the Boston Volunteer Service Bureau, Voluntary Action Center; and fund raising letters, correspondence, financial information, and reports for the St. Stephen's Legal Assistance Fund. Of note are files related to Inquilinos Boricuas En Accion (IBA) formerly called the Emergency Tenants Council (ETC), of which Morton was an active member. This was a neighborhood development organization which operated in a mostly Puerto Rican section of Boston's South End. From 1951 to 1980, Morton was a property owner on a part of the land which ETC developed into a housing project, particularly the ETC Elderly Turnkey Tower on 80 West Dedham Street, which provided additional housing for the elderly in the early 1970s. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIOCASSETTE, ca.1860-1986 (#PD.1-PD.8, T-545.1), includes photographs of Morton and her parents, brother, extended family, and friends and a scrapbook from the YWCA-sponsored trip to Japan in 1963, which contains photographs, clippings, postcards, and other printed materials. There are also photographs removed from Series I and II, which range in subject from personal and professional travel to the individuals Morton met through her community work in the South End. Also included in this series is an audiocassette of an interview with Morton (1986). This subseries is arranged by format.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Social worker Helen Morton was born June 5, 1898, in Newton, Massachusetts. Her mother was Maria Morton and her father was Marcus Morton, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. She had one older brother, also named Marcus, who became a lawyer. The family moved from Newton into the Charlesgate Hotel on Beacon Street in Boston in the early 1920s and spent summers at the family home on Yarmouth Island, Maine. Morton was educated at the Winsor School in Boston (1910-1916), Vassar College (1916-1920), Simmons College School of Social Work (1920-1922), and completed two years of graduate work at Radcliffe College in American history and social ethics (1922-1923).

Throughout her life Morton was active in community work in Boston and with the international Christian community. She held many different staff and volunteer roles within community-based, national, and international organizations and also participated in international settlement and social work conferences. Her community work in Boston started during the 1920s when she began a long affiliation with the South End House, a Boston settlement house. Morton also worked or volunteered for other Boston organizations including the Boston Center for the Arts; Blackstone Park Neighborhood Center; Community Music Center of Boston; the Volunteer Service Bureau, which she helped establish in the 1920s and which was headquartered at the Boston Metropolitan Chapter of the American Red Cross; and she had a long affiliation with the 1917 Sewing Circle, the precursor to the Junior League of Boston. Morton also worked in a number of capacities for United South End Settlements (USES), a consortium of settlement houses that served the South End neighborhood in Boston. She volunteered with the USES community organization staff and participated on their Health, Safety and Sanitation Committee, among other jobs.

While devoting time to community-based and urban renewal work in Boston, Morton also participated in national and international Christian groups. She worked as the executive secretary at the Young Women's Christian Association's National Student Council (1934-1940) and was elected a member of the World Student Christian Federation's executive committee (1934-1945). In 1946 Morton was hired as a staff member of Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués (CIMADE), the French refugee relief organization founded in 1939 by Protestant student groups, and then worked for the World YWCA in Geneva until 1948. From June 1960 through October 1962, Morton served as the associate secretary in the Division of Ecumenical Action, Department of Cooperation of Men and Women in the Church, Home, and Society at the World Council of Churches. She attended World Council of Churches meetings at St. Andrews, Scotland (1960) and the Third Assembly meeting in New Delhi (1961).

After her time with the World Council of Churches, Morton returned to the South End of Boston and was involved with multiple federally-funded urban renewal projects. For many years Morton was a member and lay reader at St. Stephen's Church in Boston's South End. She was also a founder and trustee of St. Stephen's Legal Assistance Fund, which provided legal services to residents of the South End in the 1980s. In 1980 Morton moved from Boston to the New England Deaconess Association in Concord, Massachusetts, but continued to serve as board member emeritus for many organizations including the Boston Center for the Arts and the United South End Settlements. Morton was also vice chairman and a board member of the University Christian Movement in New England in the 1980s. Morton died in 1991.


The collection is arranged in three series:
  1. Series I. Personal, 1897-1990 (#1.1-8.8)
  2. Series II. Professional and Volunteer Activities, 1918-1992 (#8.9-30.5)
  3. Series III. Photographs and Audiocassette, ca.1860-1986 (#PD.1-PD.8, T-545.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 86-M91, 86-M106, 86-M201, 90-M26, 91-M53, 92-M100

The papers of Helen Morton were given to the Schlesinger Library by Helen Morton between June 1986 and April 1991. Accession #92-M100 was donated in June 1992 by the Estate of Helen Morton via Kenneth Brown (former executive director of United South End Settlements) and Louise W. Knight.

Related Materials

There is a related collection of Helen Morton Papers at Yale University's Divinity Library.


Donor: Helen Morton

Accession numbers: 86-M91, 86-M106, 86-M201, 90-M26, 91-M53

Processed by: Laura Peimer

The following published materials have been transferred to Widener Library, Harvard University or Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School:
  1. Christ and Students of the East: The Report of the Java Conference of the World's Student Christian Federation, September 1933
  2. Cinquante Ans D'Histoire, La Féderation - Universelle Des Associations Chrétiennes D'Étudiants (1895-1945), by Suzanne De Dietrich
  3. Communauté Saint-Seurin, November 1961
  4. Federation News, World Student Christian Federation, (December 1984; Vol. II, No. 1 and 2, 1985; Vol. III, No.1, 1986; December 1987)
  5. Fighting Against Hunger and Despair...World Student Relief, Third Report on the War Relief Activities of the European Student Relief Fund, April 1942 - March 1943
  6. First Ecumenical Work-Book, The British Council of Churches, 1960
  7. Foreign Students: A New Ministry in a New World, 1963
  8. How to Build a Happy Home: A Report on Marriage and the Younger Generation, Christian Council of Nigeria
  9. Inter-Church Aid in 1959: Year End Report (World Council of Churches)
  10. Looking Beyond Ourselves: Hope Amidst The Struggle, Reflections by Participants in the University Christian Movement in new England Student Exposure Tour of the Philippines, January 1986
  11. Madras Message on the Faith, Student Volunteer Movement, 1938?
  12. New Delhi to Britain, Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 1961?
  13. New Worlds For Old: A Discussion Pamphlet on the Political Creeds, 1949
  14. Report of the Consultation on Ecumenical Policy and Practice for Lay Christian Movements, World Alliance of YMCAs and World YWCA, July 1962
  15. The Church and Education, Oxford Conference Study Series, Universal Christian Council, New York, 1937
  16. The Church and the Economic Order, Oxford Conference Study Series, Universal Christian Council, New York, 1937
  17. The Message and Decisions of Oxford on Church, Community and State, Universal Christian Council, New York, July 1937
  18. The World Council of Churches summer meetings, St. Andrews Fife, Scotland, August 1960
  19. Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches booklets (Culte Du Matin, Order of Worship for the Opening Service, Morning Worship), New Delhi, India, November - December 1961
  20. World Council of Churches: Minutes and Reports of the Fifteenth Meeting of the Central Committee, New Delhi, India, December 1961

Processing Information

Processed: February 2018

By: Laura Peimer, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.  Other material not normally retained include:  clippings that are not by or about the collection's creator; research files; financial documents such as checkbooks, cancelled checks, bank statements, etc. (when there is financial documentation at a higher level); invoices, receipts, orders, airline tickets, etc.; and envelopes (when they do not contain additional information).

When samples of weeded documents are retained, it is indicated in the finding aid.
Link to catalog
Morton, Helen, 1898-1991. Papers of Helen Morton, ca.1860-1992 (inclusive), 1914-1991 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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