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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 671: T-384

Papers of Marjorie Chambers, 1943-2010 (inclusive), 1953-1995 (bulk)


Correspondence, speeches, meeting minutes, conference programs, clippings, and campaign materials of Marjorie Bell Chambers, teacher, civic leader, and official in government and nonprofit organizations.


  • Creation: 1943-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1953-1995

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except that #46.9-46.11 and 59.16 are closed until January 1, 2040, and #49.3 is closed until January 1, 2036. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Marjorie Bell Chambers 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.


34.81 linear feet ((83 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 3 oversize folders, 12 photograph folders, 1 audiotape)

This collection documents Marjorie Bell Chambers' educational work, her involvement with the American Association of University Women and other women's organizations, her involvement with the Republican Party (including her campaigns for elected office), and her civic and community work. Very little personal material is included. The collection includes clippings, press releases, speech notes, correspondence, meeting minutes, conference programs, campaign contributions, drawings, and an audiotape. The processor created most folder titles; headings created by Chambers appear in quotation marks. National, branch, and division newsletters of the American Association of University Women were transferred to the Schlesinger Library Periodicals Department, as were newsletters of the International Federation of University Women, the Sangre de Cristo Girl Scout Council, and the National and New Mexico Federations of Republican Women. For a list of titles, see the separation record. Additional material received in 2011 (accession number 2011-M94) was added to the collection in May 2018. These materials are housed in Series VIII (#68.1-84.8). All other files remain in the same order.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1943-2004 (#1.1-3.1, F+D.1, PD.1-PD. 2), includes articles about Chambers, detailed résumés and autobiographical sketches, appointment and address books, awards and honors, school papers, financial records, and photographs. Of particular note are Chambers' reflections on reaching the age of 66 (#1.11) and her pastel and charcoal drawings (#2.16). The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, SPEECHES AND WRITINGS, 1946-2005 (#3.2-21.27), consists primarily of notes for speeches Chambers gave to a variety of audiences, such as the Los Alamos Kiwanis, the Coalition for Abortion Rights, and the World Conference of Women Leaders in Jerusalem. Also included are letters to the editor, articles, and book reviews by Chambers (#8.2) and a newsletter written by her (#4.8). The bulk of the speeches concern politics and the role of women in U.S. society; topics include "Women's Equity: What We Have and What We Still Need," "Things Neither Your Mother Nor Your Father Ever Taught You--Their Daughter--About Politics," and "Women Acquiring Political Power." A number of these speeches were given at national or regional American Association of University Women conventions. There is considerable overlap with the other series. For additional American Association of University Women speeches and related material, see Series V; for additional speeches given on behalf of Colorado Women's College, see Series IV; and for additional speeches re: Chambers' political campaigns and her work with the Girl Scouts, see Series VII. The series is arranged with several folders of untitled speeches appearing first, followed by a chronological arrangement.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1945-2004 (#22.1-26.1, PD.3), consists largely of what Chambers termed "miscellaneous correspondence"; these folders contain correspondence on a variety of topics, including speaking engagements, Chambers' political campaigns, and her various professional activities. Included are letters related to Chambers' work with the League of Nations in the 1940s (#22.1). The bulk of the correspondence is professional, but some letters from friends are also included, as well as Lee Chambers (#25.9). In addition to the "miscellaneous" correspondence, the series includes some folders of correspondence on specific topics, such as Chambers' work for the Atomic Energy Commission, or with particular organizations, such as the Scarsdale Alumni Association and the White House. The series is arranged chronologically, and additional professional material can be found in Series II, IV, V, VI, and VII.

Series IV, EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1955-2004 (#26.2-36.5, OD.3, T-384.1), primarily documents Chambers' involvement with Colorado Women's College and Union Institute. The Colorado Women's College material includes clippings, minutes, correspondence (including letters congratulating Chambers on her appointment as president and expressing regret at her decision to resign), speeches and writings, press releases, financial statements, and an audiotape of Chambers' inauguration. Much of the material relates to the college's efforts to find sufficient funding and remain open. The Union Institute material consists of articles by and about Chambers; correspondence, including Chambers' tenure as dean of the graduate school's Midwest region (#33.1-33.3); colloquia and seminar registration lists, schedules, and planning materials; meeting minutes; and a 1990 tour and seminar led by Chambers in China. The series also includes correspondence and a teaching file, including course evaluations (#36.3) from Chambers' work at the University of New Mexico; and correspondence, meeting minutes, speeches, and reports re: her work with the Secretary of the Navy's Advisory Board on Education and Training, the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education, Colby-Sawyer College, and other institutions or organizations. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN, 1950-2004 (#36.6-51.5, PD.4-PD.5), contains articles by and about Chambers; correspondence; press releases; minutes; yearbooks; newsletters; conference programs; and speeches, as well as notes, drafts, and correspondence re: Chambers' history of the American Association of University Women. Notable correspondents include Elizabeth Holtzman, Patricia Schroeder, Edmund Muskie, and Jimmy Carter. Chambers served as national president from 1975 to 1979, and prior to that held a variety of regional and national positions, serving as the second president of the Los Alamos Branch, and as president of the New Mexico Division. #48.8-48.10 document Chambers' first years of involvement with the organization, and #36.6-36.8 contain meeting minutes, etc. for the American Association of University Women-International Federation of University Women liaison committee. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VI, WORK FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS, 1952-2004 (#51.6-57.8), includes correspondence re: the Equal Rights Amendment, with letters from a number of senators (among them George McGovern and John Glenn) concerning their views on the amendment's ratification (#51.12). The series also contains correspondence, minutes, reports, testimony, press releases, and clippings from Chambers' work with the National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs and the President's Advisory Committee for Women. (Clippings reporting Bella Abzug's dismissal from the President's Advisory Committee are included.) Correspondence, conference buttons, and an article and report by Chambers re: the 1980 World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, which she attended as a U.S. delegate, are located here, as are correspondence and conference programs documenting her interest in women's rights and her involvement with a variety of women's organizations, ranging from the Daughters of the American Revolution to the International Federation of University Women. (See also series V, #36.6-36.8 and #45.1 for material re: the relationship of the International Federation of University Women and the American Association of University Women.) The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VII, POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES, 1950-2004 (#57.9-67.8, OD.1-OD.3, PD.6-PD.8), includes clippings, correspondence, speeches, campaign contributions, issues statements, and publicity for Chambers' congressional and lieutenant governor campaigns. The clippings document the particular challenges she faced as a woman running for political office in the 1980s, as well as a threat made on her life during the campaign. Also included are minutes, press releases, and correspondence from Chambers' tenure on the Los Alamos County Council, as well as testimony she gave on behalf of the council to the Senate Finance Committee and to a hearing convened by Senator Pete Domenici; and correspondence, clippings, minutes and annual reports for her work with the Los Alamos County Council. In addition, the series includes correspondence with a variety of prominent Republican politicians, such as Donald Rumsfeld, Dan Quayle, and John Sununu. Chambers' attempts to obtain a position within the Reagan administration, her work with the Bush/Quayle administration, and her involvement with local and national organizations of Republican women are documented here, as is her work with various civic organizations. The series includes minutes, clippings, correspondence, newsletters, by-laws from her presidency of the Los Alamos Historical Society and her involvement with history conferences convened by the Historical Society, Union Institute, and the University of New Mexico; and her work with the Girl Scouts and with the Los Alamos Garden Club (Chambers won several ribbons for her roses and flower arrangements and her daughters also competed, with Lee winning a rarely-awarded prize in the 1959 junior division). She also drew illustrations for the United Church of Los Alamos' programs and directories, which are included here. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VIII, ADDENDA, 1951-2010 (#68.1-84.8, PD.9-PD.12) consists of speeches and testimony; articles by and about Chambers; conference materials; correspondence; meeting minutes; and reports received by the Schlesinger Library in May 2011. The bulk of the material overlaps with the existing collection in terms of both date range and subject matter and some duplication may exist. Items of note include an oral history in which Chambers describes her experiences on the President's Advisory Committee on Women, particularly the events leading to Bella Abzug's firing, its aftermath, and her opinion of Carter and his views regarding women's rights; letters from a Girl Scout troop thanking Chambers for meeting with them and showing them her collection of international dolls; and correspondence regarding Chambers' application for the presidency of Southern Oregon State College and the search committee's request that she be endorsed by male colleagues. The series also includes the notes Chambers took as a member of the first delegation of American women to visit Libya and a copy of Anne Voillequé's diary describing the same trip. The arrangement of the series mirrors the arrangement of the existing collection.

A selection 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 [*].


Teacher, civic leader, and official in government and nonprofit organizations, Marjorie Bell Chambers was born in New York City on March 11, 1923, the daughter of Kenneth and Katherine (Totman) Bell. Her paternal grandfather, Wilberforce Lee, was a missionary in Angola and her father was raised by an adoptive family in Canada; he became a senior vice-president of Chase Manhattan Bank. Chambers contracted tuberculosis in her childhood and suffered from trouble with her lungs for the remainder of her life. She received her B.A. in history and political science from Mount Holyoke College in 1943, and in 1945 married physicist William H. Chambers, who had served with George Patton's Third Army in Europe during World War II. They both pursued graduate studies at Cornell University, with Chambers receiving her M.A. in 1948. William earned his Ph.D. at Ohio State University, and in 1950, with their children Lee and William, they moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where her husband William worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Two more children, Leslie and Kenneth, were born in Los Alamos and Chambers focused on raising the family and volunteering with various organizations, including the Girl Scouts and the American Association of University Women. She was a founding member of the Los Alamos Branch of the American Association of University Women, and served as president of that branch, and of the New Mexico Division before serving as national president from 1975 to 1979. In 1964, she began working as a substitute teacher in Los Alamos public schools, and in 1965 was hired as project historian at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Los Alamos. This work prompted her to continue her graduate studies and she received her PhD from the University of New Mexico in 1974; she was an adjunct faculty member of the university from 1970 to 1976, returning for the 1984-1985 academic year. She had a long career in higher education, joining the faculty of the Union Institute Graduate School in 1979 and serving as dean of the Midwest region from 1979 to 1982; she retired from the Institute in 2003.

While William Chambers continued to work in New Mexico, after their children were grown, Marjorie's professional activities required her to travel considerably and to settle temporarily in other states. In 1976, she was appointed president of Colorado Women's College, and served until 1978; the first woman president of the college, she launched an intensive 10-day campaign to save it from economic collapse. This campaign was successful, though the college ultimately closed. In 1985, Chambers became interim president of Colby-Sawyer College; the first woman to lead that institution, she also instituted the college's first strategic plan. She also served as chair of the Secretary of the Navy's Advisory Board on Education and Training from 1987 to 1989, and as a vice-chair and commissioner of the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education. In 1976, she co-founded Bell-Chambers Associates, a consulting firm which specialized in government, education, science, and technology.

Chambers was a lifelong advocate for women's rights and was a national spokesperson for the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment. President Ford appointed her to the National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs in 1976 and she remained on the Council until 1980, serving as chair from 1978 to 1979. In 1978, President Carter appointed her to the President's Advisory Committee for Women, and she became acting chair after Bella Abzug was fired from the committee in 1979. She was also very involved in both national and local politics, and in 1982 became the first Republican woman to run (unsuccessfully) for Congress from New Mexico; she followed this with an unsuccessful run for Lieutenant Governor in 1986. She was elected to the Los Alamos County Council in 1975, serving as its chair--and instituting use of the word "councilor" rather than "council man"--in 1976; she also served as chair of the Los Alamos County Personnel Board from 1984 to 1990. She died on August 22, 2006, after a long illness.


The collection is arranged in eight series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1943-2004 (#1.1-3.1, F+D.1, PD.1-PD. 2)
  2. Series II. Speeches and writings, 1946-2005 (#3.2-21.27)
  3. Series III. Correspondence, 1945-2004 (#22.1-26.1, PD.3)
  4. Series IV. Educational activities, 1955-2004 (#26.2-36.5, OD.3, T-384.1)
  5. Series V. American Association of University Women, 1950-2004 (#36.6-51.5, PD.4-PD.5)
  6. Series VI. Work for women's rights, 1952-2004 (#51.6-57.8)
  7. Series VII. Political and community activities, 1950-2004 (#57.9-67.8, OD.1-OD.3, PD.6-PD.8)
  8. Series VIII. Addenda, 1951-2010 (#68.1-84.8, PD.9-PD.12)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2009-M178, 2009-M243, 2010-M206. Accession number 2011-M94 was added in May 2018.

The papers of Marjorie Bell Chambers were given to the Schlesinger Library by her widower, William Chambers, and daughter, Lee Chambers, between 2009 and 2011.


Donors: William and Lee Chambers

Accession numbers: 2009-M178, 2009-M243, 2010-M206, 2011-M94

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and offered to the Schlesinger Library Periodicals Department; consult the library's catalog for holdings:

  1. American Association of University Women Branch and Division newsletters, 1953-1990
  2. AAUW Journal, 1970-1978
  3. Cap Alert: National Federation of Republican Women Comprehensive Advocacy Program, 1978-79
  4. Colorado Women's College Bulletin, 1976-1977
  5. The Girl Scout Leader, January 1955
  6. Graduate Woman (American Association of University Women), 1978-1979
  7. Graphic (Newspaper of Colorado Women's College), 1976-1978
  8. IFUW Newsletter, 1977
  9. Iowoman: Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, 1977
  10. The Lark (newsletter of the Sangre de Cristo Girl Scout Council), 1956
  11. League of Women Voters of Los Alamos Newsletter, March-April 1976
  12. Legislative Lookout, July 1978
  13. Michigan Women's Studies Newsletter, September 1980
  14. The New Challenge (National Federation of Republican Women) newsletter, 1986
  15. Outlook (American Association of University Women), 1991
  16. The Republicana (New Mexico Federation of Republican Women), 1986
  17. Women's Information Network, February 1979
  18. Women News (Colorado Women's College), 1985?
  19. Women's Studies Newsletter (Denison University, December 1980
  20. Womanpower-in-Action newsletter, n.d.
  21. Yucca (newsletter of Sangre de Cristo Girl Scout Council), 1958-1974

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Book Division:

  1. Biennial Report of the American Association of University Women, 1969-1971
  2. Community Action Tool Catalog: Techniques and Strategies for Successful Action Programs. American Association of University Women, 1978
  3. The Emerging Nations of Asia and Africa: A Syllabus of Study with Workshop Suggestions. American Association of University Women, n.d.
  4. History of Democratic Women. Democratic National Committee (U.S.); Democratic Congressional Wives Forum, 1960
  5. Implementaton Guide for Woman: Searching for Self. American Association of University Women, 1973
  6. Public Information Event: A New Day: Beyond ERA, July 1, 1982: Training Manual for Local Coordinators. National Women's Conference Center (National Women's Conference Committee), 1982
  7. Tryon, Ruth W., The AAUW, 1881-1949. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women, 1950

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the archives of Colby-Sawyer College:

  1. Meeting minutes, 1981-1989

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the archives of the University of Denver:

  1. Prospectus, bulletin, and other publications re: Colorado Women's College, ca.1977

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the archives of the University of New Mexico:

  1. Board of Directors and Alumni Association meeting minutes, 2000-2002

Processing Information

Processed: April 2011

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Su Ciampa.

Updated and new material added: May 2018

By: Susan Earle with assistance from Ashley Thomas

Chambers, Marjorie, 1923-2006. Papers of Marjorie Chambers, 1943-2010 (inclusive), 1953-1995 (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 Radcliffe College Class of 1957 and the estate of Marjorie Bell Chambers and by the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing 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.

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