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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 368

Papers of Sarah Merry Bradley Gamble, 1810-1984


Correspondence, writings, and photographs, etc., of Sarah Merry Bradley Gamble, birth control activist; also includes family papers.


  • 1810-1984

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 Sarah Merry Bradley Gamble 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.


11.47 linear feet ((27 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 16 folio folders, 9 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 2 supersize folders, 4+1/2 linear feet of photographs, 30 lantern slides, 9 framed pictures, 4 audiotapes)

Through correspondence, writings, and photographs, this collection documents seven generations, from Gamble's great-great grandparents on her father's side to her seventeen grandchildren. There are also papers pertaining to her grandparents on her mother's side, and the parents and grandparents of Clarence James Gamble. In addition, the collection documents the work of Gamble and Clarence James Gamble in birth control and includes records of the Pathfinder Fund.

Photographs pertaining to each series are arranged chronologically at the end of the series. The photographs provide a fairly complete visual record of the Bradley and Gamble families and of the Gambles' birth control work. Originally there were approximately six cubic feet of photographs; the processor removed duplicates and most unrelated and repetitious images.

All folder titles, except those in quotation marks, were supplied by the processor.

Series I, Bradley family, documents four generations of Bradleys, from Gamble's great-great grandparents to her parents. The series consists largely of correspondence, including courtship letters from the 1820s, but also contains diaries, school notebooks, and memorabilia, as well as papers of the Women's Municipal League of Boston, of which Gamble's mother, Amy (Aldis) Bradley, was a founder. (For related material, see Elizabeth Lowell Putnam papers, MC 360.) The series, which is arranged by generation and birth order, also contains printed biographical and genealogical information about the Bradley and Aldis families. For additional Bradley family papers, see the Bradley family collection in the Schlesinger Library.

Series II, Sarah Bradley Gamble, is divided into nine sections: Biographical, Diaries, Education, Siblings, Correspondence, Writings, Travel, and Voluntary activities; the final section is an alphabetical file kept by Gamble in her later years. This includes correspondence, clippings, printed material, and the like; folders named for particular individuals usually contain letters from these individuals to Gamble. With the exception of the last section, which is arranged as it was found, each section in this series is arranged chronologically or by birth order.

Series III, Clarence James Gamble, begins with papers pertaining to Clarence James Gamble's parents. This includes papers about Mary Huggins Gamble's work in education for girls and public school kindergartens. Clarence James Gamble's youth, young adulthood, and professional life are documented in four sections: Boyhood, Diaries, Princeton, and Medical writings. Six notebooks Clarence James Gamble kept from 1908 until 1949 contain copies of letters, diary entries, and medical notes. Clarence James Gamble occasionally wrote in a code in which one letter of the alphabet stood for another; there is no key to this code in the collection or in the possession of the family.

The largest section in Series III is Correspondence. This spans the years from college through Clarence James Gamble's early professional life. Clarence James Gamble corresponded extensively with his parents, exchanging especially frequent and personal letters with his mother. He also corresponded with his brothers, and many friends. Clarence James Gamble typed and kept carbon copies of many of his letters.

Series IV, Sarah (Bradley) and Clarence James Gamble and children, begins with the engagement and wedding of Gamble and Clarence James Gamble and includes papers pertaining to their early travels, their children, and their grandchildren.

A major portion of this series is made up of "family letters." These span the years 1941-1967; almost all were written by Gamble and addressed to "Dear Family." They document the activities of Gamble, Clarence James Gamble, and their children and, from 1952 on, give detailed accounts of the Gambles' international birth control work. While abroad, Gamble sent these letters to the family's secretary, who typed and copied them and mailed them to a long list of recipients. There were apparently two lists, one of them an "inner circle." Some letters in this section are addressed to only one or two individuals and some were not written by Gamble. In later years several of her children distributed their own family letters, some of which are included here.

This series includes the Christmas cards, also containing news of family members, that Gamble designed and sent out to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances each year from 1925 until 1982, and papers pertaining to the Bradley family reunions organized by Gamble.

Series V, Birth control work, contains some information about Clarence James Gamble's early work in birth control as well as parts of what was a chronological file of the Pathfinder Fund. Related papers are in #264, 272, 274, 296, 354v, 363, 491-506, 550v, 552v, and 554v.

For more documentation of the Gambles' work in birth control, see the Clarence Gamble papers at the Countway Library, Harvard Medical School.


Sarah Merry (Bradley) Gamble was born on March 9, 1898, in Brookline, Massachusetts, one of five daughters of Amy (Aldis) Bradley and Richards Merry Bradley; a son died in childhood. Many of the Aldis family resided in St. Albans, Vermont, while the Bradleys originally settled in Westminster and later moved to Brattleboro.

Gamble grew up in Boston. During her childhood the family summered at Manchester-by-the-Sea on the North Shore, in York Harbor, Maine, with her mother's family, and in later years at the Bradley Home Place in Brattleboro. She was educated at the Winsor School, and later attended Radcliffe College and Simmons School of Social Work. Gamble served as a volunteer driver during World War I, and in 1917 helped found Green Mountain Camp, intended to provide rural Vermont girls with a healthy educational and recreational summer.

In 1924, Gamble married Clarence James Gamble (1894-1966) of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Pasadena, California, one of four children of Mary (Huggins) Gamble and David Berry Gamble and grandson of the co-founder of Procter & Gamble. Clarence James Gamble had graduated from Princeton in 1914 and from Harvard Medical School in 1920. Gamble and Clarence James Gamble had five children: Sarah Louise (Sally); Richard Bradley; Walter James; Mary Julia (Judy); and Robert David. The family lived near Philadelphia while Clarence James Gamble held a post in the University of Pennsylvania Department of Pharmacology. In 1937 they moved to Milton, Massachusetts; Clarence James Gamble taught at Harvard Medical School and was a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Clarence James Gamble's independent income allowed him to devote himself to the controversial field of birth control, and in 1929 he helped found a Maternal Health Clinic in Cincinnati. Such "maternal health associations," which provided contraceptive services, were eventually established in forty cities in fourteen states. In 1952, Clarence James Gamble and Gamble attended the Bombay International Birth Control Conference organized by Margaret Sanger. The Gambles made four around-the-world trips, working with doctors and social workers to set up family planning clinics in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, East and West Pakistan, India, Ceylon, the United Arab Republic, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Greece, Italy, Nigeria, France, Sweden, and England. They also sent field workers overseas to undertake birth control work in developing countries. After Clarence James Gamble's death, Gamble made a solo world tour.

The Pathfinder Fund was incorporated in 1957. As described in the 1978 annual report, it is a non-political, non-profit organization that "promotes and supports population and family planning activities in less developed countries." The organization has offices in Boston and in several foreign cities, and has conducted projects in more than eighty countries. The Gambles' five children (and some of their spouses) have been active in the organization. For more information about the Gambles' work in birth control, see Every Child a Wanted Child, by Doone and Greer Williams (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978).

Gamble and her family were also active in a number of community service organizations, including the Northfield League, Inc. (originally the Northfield Religious Conference for Girls), St. Michael's Sunday School, the Experiment in International Living, the Boston Center for Adult Education, and the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross; Gamble served on the boards of a number of these organizations. The Gamble family also housed British foster children during World War II and was active in the civil rights movement. Gamble was a prolific poet and wrote many children's stories with religious messages.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. BRADLEY FAMILY. #1-154f.
  2. Series II. SARAH (BRADLEY) GAMBLE. #155-319.
  3. Series III. CLARENCE JAMES GAMBLE. #320-452.
  5. Series V. BIRTH CONTROL WORK. #557-612.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 84-M42, 84-M208

The papers of Sarah Merry (Bradley) Gamble were given to the Schlesinger Library in March and December 1984 by Gamble's five children, Sarah Epstein, Richard Gamble, Walter Gamble, Julia Kahrl, and Robert Gamble.

Key to initials:

AA = Arthur Aldis

AAB = Amy (Aldis) Bradley

ABS = Amy (Bradley) Suter

AOA = Asa Owen Aldis

ASG = Antonina Spisak-Gamble

BL = Bryan Lathrop

CHG = Cecil Huggins Gamble

CJG = Clarence James Gamble

DBG = David Berry Gamble

EB = Edith Bradley

EBD = Emily (Bradley) Dorr

EBW = Emily (Bradley) Wesselhoeft

HAL = Helen (Aldis) Lathrop

HAP = Harriet (Amory) Potter

HBR = Helen (Bradley) Rotch

JDB = Jonathan Dorr Bradley

JDB II = John Dorr Bradley

JGK = Julia "Judy" (Gamble) Kahrl

LCE = Lionel C. Epstein

LGG = Louise (Gibbs) Gamble

MA = Miranda Aldis

MBE = Mary (Bradley) Emery

MABK = Merab Ann (Bradley) Kellogg

MHG = Mary (Huggins) Gamble

MPB = Marie Pupin Burel

MTA = Mary (Taylor) Aldis

ND = Nathaniel Dorr

RB = Richards Bradley

RBG = Richard Bradley Gamble

RDCM = Robert D.C. Merry

RDG = Robert David Gamble

RMB = Richards Merry Bradley

RT = Russell Tyson

SBG = Sarah (Bradley) Gamble

SBG II = Susan (Bradley) Grinnell

SBT = Sarah (Bradley) Tyson

SCB = Susan Mina (Crossman) Bradley

SDG = Sidney David Gamble

SGE = Sarah "Sally" (Gamble) Epstein

SK = Stanley Kahrl

SRB III = Stephen Rowe Bradley III

SWMB = Sarah Williams (Merry) Bradley

WCB = William Czar Bradley

WCB II = William Czar Bradley II

WJG = Walter James Gamble

WWB = Walter Williams Bradley


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-20
  2. Box 2: Folders 21, 23v-33v
  3. Box 3: Folders 34-40
  4. Box 4: Folders 41-49v
  5. Box 5: Folders 50-72, 74-86
  6. Box 6: Folders 87-88, 90-101v
  7. Box 7: Folders 102v-107, 109-114
  8. Box 8: Folders 115-126, 155-156, 158-165
  9. Box 9: Folders 166-173
  10. Box 10: Folders 174-191
  11. Box 11A: 208-209
  12. Box 11: Folders 192-212
  13. Box 12: Folders 213-223
  14. Box 13: Folders 224-235, 237-240
  15. Box 14: Folders 241-247, 249-275, 277-278
  16. Box 15: Folders 279-300
  17. Box 16: Folders 301-305, 320-328, 330-336, 339
  18. Box 17: Folders 340v-348
  19. Box 18: Folders 349v-352v
  20. Box 19: Folders 353v-361
  21. Box 20: Folders 362v-373
  22. Box 21: Folders 374-392
  23. Box 22: Folders 393-407
  24. Box 23: Folders 453-460
  25. Box 24: Folders 461v-466, 468-486
  26. Box 25: Folders 487-500
  27. Box 26: Folders 501-509, 512-515, 557-558
  28. Box 27: Folders 559-565v, 567-578

Processing Information

Processed: July 1985

By: Martha Hodes

Gamble, Sarah Merry Bradley, 1898-1984. Papers of Sarah Merry Bradley Gamble, 1810-1984: 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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