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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 781

Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, 1901-2017 (inclusive), 1928-1980 (bulk)


Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, lawyer and women's rights and peace activist.


  • Creation: 1901-2017
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1928-1980

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Helen Lingenfelter Gray 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.


4.59 linear feet ((10 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 3 photograph folders)

The papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray contain correspondence, notes, minutes, fliers, and lists relating to the committees, issues, and legal causes she worked for, as well as to her household and family concerns. The collection documents Gray's work in the anti-Vietnam war movement; with women's liberation groups in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts; in the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, where she established a Women's Rights Committee; as an advocate for incarcerated women; and as an anti-racist activist and freedom school educator. Most of the collection was foldered and titled by Gray. Her original titles appear below; titles created by the archivist appear in brackets.

Additional material donated to the Schlesinger Library in 2017 (accession #2017-M5) was added to the collection in December 2018. The majority of this material was related to the Lingenfelter family, especially to Helen Gray's sister Mary Lingenfelter, who taught in China at the Shanghai American School from 1939 to 1941. A fourth series was added to the collection to hold Lingenfelter family material. Helen Gray's personal correspondence and other material related to the original three series was incorporated into those series. All material from accession #2017-M5 is housed in #10.1 to 12.3.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1920-1984 (#1.1-2.8, 10.1-10.11), includes correspondence, notes, lists, etc., that relate to Gray's family, household, and personal life. Gray was a list-maker, and included here are lists she made of daily schedules for her sons, their chores, what belongings to pack on family camping trips, and what kinds of games to play at the children's birthday parties. One of Gray's three sons served in the Army in the early 1960s, another was a conscientious objector. Helen Gray was heavily involved in the proceedings around Roger Gray's draft case (#1.12), and was concurrently a draft counselor for other young men. Several letters (#1.7) describe the McCarthy-era charges of Communist sympathies brought against John Gray in 1951. Work Helen Gray undertook in the Weston, Massachusetts, community to broaden international understanding through foreign student exchange is also documented (#1.11, 2.7). Material added in 2018 (#10.1-10.11) is primarily correspondence, including from Gray's friend Virginia Durr. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, RADCLIFFE COLLEGE, 1941-1990 (#2.9-3.9, 10.12), includes Gray's notes, correspondence, and other Radcliffe College-related documents. Most of the material dates from the late 1950s to early 1960s, when Gray held a number of elected alumnae positions. Helen Gray was Chairman of the Radcliffe Alumnae Fund (1955-1957), First Vice President of the Radcliffe Alumnae Association (1959-1961), and then President of the Radcliffe Alumnae Association (1961-1963), a post which included being an ex-officio member of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees. In 1967, Gray was asked to help mediate a dispute between Radcliffe students and the College administration over housing and meal plan-related issues; Gray ended up supporting the students. Folders may include correspondence with Radcliffe College staff and other alumnae, notes, notes for speeches, minutes, agendas, etc. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISM, 1932-1984 (#3.10-9.5, 10.13-10.17, FD.1), contains correspondence, minutes and notes, fliers, and articles that document Gray's legal activism and political work. The bulk of the material is from the 1960s and 1970s and is files relating to Gray's work with the American Friends Service Committee, Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Political Action for Peace; more general folders relate to her involvement with the Vietnam War draft opposition and antiwar movement (including anti-war protests at Harvard), women's liberation movement, and freedom schools. Other topics represented include fair housing, racial justice, and penal reform in Massachusetts.

Most of the files on CLUM contain a mixture of Executive Committee meeting minutes, agendas, notes, and correspondence. Gray was a constant donor to liberal and radical political causes during the 1960s and 1970s; some of the files contain evidence of her financial support of some of the causes. Much of Gray's anti-war work was grounded in her Quaker upbringing; this collection contains a lot of AFSC material that documents the Cambridge office's anti-war work. Despite being decades older than most of the other women involved in women's liberation groups in the late 1960s, Gray was a willing participant and supporter of many local Cambridge projects, including the Women's Center, the Women's Community Health Center and the Bread and Roses restaurant. Correspondence from younger women (#8.12) attests to Gray's relationship as a mentor and advisor to younger women spearheading this local organizing. Several folders contain correspondence from Gray's early political work in Washington, DC. The series is arranged alphabetically.

SERIES IV, LINGENFELTER FAMILY, 1901-2017 (#11.1-12.3, PD.1-PD.3), includes biographical information and correspondence between Corinne Coggeshall Lingenfelter and Edward A. Lingenfelter of Des Moines, Iowa, and their two daughters, Mary Lingenfelter and Helen Lingenfelter Gray. Letters sent by Corinne and Edward Lingenfelter describe life in Des Moines, Iowa. Helen Gray's letters home from Radcliffe describe social activities, football games, and politics. In 1939, Mary Lingenfelter traveled to Shanghai to teach at the American School there, and wrote long, detailed letters home to her father and sister (#11.4-11.6). Also included are photographs Mary Lingenfelter took in China; these show her posed throughout the city; the Shanghai American School grounds, staff, and students; and other Shanghai residents. Other photographs show classrooms in the Whiteley Nursery School, a progressive preschool founded by Mary Lingenfelter in Scarsdale, New York. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or letter recipient.


Helen Coggeshall Lingenfelter Gray was born in 1910 in Des Moines, Iowa, to lawyer Edward Alden Lingenfelter and Corinne Coggeshall Lingenfelter. Corinne Lingenfelter was a founder and the first president of the Des Moines League of Women Voters; her mother, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, was an Iowa suffragist, an officer in NAWSA, and an editor of The Woman's Standard.

Helen Lingenfelter attended Radcliffe College (AB, 1932) and received a law degree from National University (now George Washington University) in 1938. After college she worked as a secretary at the American Association of University Professors and at the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in Washington, DC. Following law school she worked as an attorney for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1938-1942). In 1941 and 1942 she also worked for the US Senate's Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee Investigating Violations of Free Speech and the Rights of Labor.

In 1941 she married physicist John Chipman Gray, Harvard class of 1930, and grandson of noted Harvard Law School professor John Chipman Gray (1839-1915). They had three sons, John "Chip" Chipman, Jr. (b. April 23, 1942), Edward "Ned" Coggeshall (b. December 15, 1943), and Roger Whiteley (b. June 3, 1946). The Grays lived in Washington, DC, when the children were young; John Gray conducted research for the Navy.

Helen Gray was a member of the Progressive Party, the DC League of Women Voters, the Lawyer's Guild, and supported other progressive causes. Raised a Quaker, Helen Gray was devoted to pacifism as a spiritual and political belief. She helped to organize a conference on Peaceful Alternatives to the Atlantic Pact in 1949, and explored peaceful alternatives to the Korea War through her various political groups and the American Friends Service Committee. In December of 1951, John Gray's security clearance was revoked; the Grays believed it was due to Helen's political persuasions.

In 1952, the Grays moved to Weston, Massachusetts. Helen Gray studied for and passed the Massachusetts Bar exam in 1953; from 1954 to 1955 she worked part-time as an attorney for the Boston Legal Aid Society, where some of her work was for inmates at the Framingham Reformatory for Women. John Gray taught at the Cambridge School of Weston for several years and also worked for Science Electronics Inc., a division of General Electric, where he developed lab and educational apparatus and teaching materials. While living in Weston, Helen Gray was active in her children's schools, the Women's Community League, and initiated a foreign student program and a United Nations week in the town. In the early 1960s, the Grays moved to Cambridge.

Helen Gray was an active Radcliffe College alumna. She served as Chairman of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Fund (1955-1957), First Vice President of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (1959-1961), and finally was President of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (1961-1963), a duty which included being an ex-officio member of the Radcliffe College Board of Trustees.

Helen Gray taught a class on government and civil liberties at a Dorchester freedom school in 1963 and 1964. Around the same time she volunteered to have a young African-American girl on parole report to her as a parole officer, and she began to be more interested in issues relating to youth "delinquency" and incarceration, poverty, racial relations, etc. She took on some pro bono Legal Aid cases, most of which involved advocating for incarcerated or impoverished clients. Helen Gray served on the Executive Board of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM) in the mid-1960s, and was a founding member of that organization's Women's Rights Committee. She was active in (including serving on the Steering Committee) Massachusetts Political Action for Peace (Mass PAX) in the 1960s, as well as numerous smaller peace and anti-Vietnam war groups and organizations. Helen Gray was also interested in the women's liberation movement of the late 1960s; she was a member of a small women's group and was actively involved in seeking out information and supporting the goals of young women.

Helen Gray donated her grandmother Mary Jane Coggeshall's papers to the Schlesinger in 1946. She died of Alzheimer's disease in December 1989.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1920-1984 (#1.1-2.8, 10.1-10.11)
  2. Series II. Radcliffe College, 1941-1990 (#2.9-3.9, 10.12)
  3. Series III. Organizations and activism, 1932-1984 (#3.10-9.5, 10.13-10.17, FD.1)
  4. Series IV. Lingenfelter family, 1901-2017 (#11.1-12.3, PD.1-PD.3)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 93-M130; 94-M156, 95-M145, 2017-M5

The papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray were given to the Schlesinger Library by her husband, John Chipman Gray, in 1993 and 1994, and her son, John Chipman Gray, Jr., in October 1995 and January 2017.

Related Materials

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Mary Jane Whitely Coggeshall Papers (A-13) and Mary J. Coggeshall Additional Papers (MC 911).


Donors: John Chipman Gray and John Chipman Gray, Jr.

Accession numbers: 93-M130; 94-M156, 95-M145

Processed by: Jenny Gotwals

The following items have been transferred to the Women's Newsletter and Periodical Collection (Pr-4):

  1. Justice for Divorced and Separated Mothers newsletter, September 1972
  2. National Newsletter. League of Women Shoppers, Vol. VI, No. 1, January 1949
  3. Voice of Women-- NEwsletter. Voice of Women New England, March 1969
  4. Women's Work Has Just Begun, No. 1. August 1972

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. Citizens Committee to Change Welfare newsletter, Nos. 10, 14, 15, 1969-1970
  2. NARAL newsletter, April 1976
  3. Network News. National Women's Health Network, March/April 1983
  4. Old Mole. No. 13, May 1969
  5. On Our Way. The Women's Center newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 8, February 22, 1972
  6. Society of Women Engineers newsletter, Vol. 16, No. 9, May 1970
  7. Somerville Women's Health Project newsletter, 1972-1975
  8. The Spokeswoman. Vol. 2, No. 3, September 1, 1971; Vol. 6, No. 4, October 15, 1975
  9. Women's Liberation newsletter, June 1970

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. Abortion: Public Issue, Private Decision by Harriet Pilpel, Ruth Jane Zuckerman, and Elizabeth Ogg (Public Affairs Committee, 1975)
  2. Sex Discrimination in an Elementary Reading Program by the Michigan Women's Commission, 1974?
  3. Sisters, Brothers, Lovers....Listen... by Judy Bernstein, Peggy Morton, Linda Seese, and Myrna Wood (New England Free Press, 1967?)
  4. Women vs. Mass. (1971)

Processing Information

Processed: January 2014

By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance of Emily Underwood.

Updated and additional material added December 2018.

Gray, Helen Lingenfelter. Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, 1901-2017 (inclusive), 1928-1980 (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 Esther Margaret Ridder Preservation Fund, the Class of 1950 Fund, the Jeannette Ward Fund, and the Mary Maples Dunn 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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