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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1002

Papers of Mary Janeway Conger, 1923-1978 (inclusive), 1944-1945 (bulk)


Letters home from a Women's Army Corps member stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base in California.


  • 1923-1978
  • Majority of material found within 1944-1945


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Janeway Conger 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.


.42 linear feet ((1 file box) plus 1 photograph folder.)

The papers of Mary Janeway Conger primarily consists of letters written by Mary Janeway Conger to her mother, Helen Fisk Gavin, and father, John Conklin Conger, while serving with the Women's Army Corps and stationed at Hamilton Field Air Base in California from 1943 until she was discharged in 1945. Letters address her transfers within the base, furlough days, the difference between her life as a civilian and a WAC, and her opinions of the Army and of World War II. Books, Time magazine, movies, and laughter ease the monotony of her job duties at the base. Over the two years, Mary Conger's initial desire to do her part for the war efforts dwindle with her increasing questions about her future pursuits. She also regularly asks after her brother, Johnny Conger, who is enlisted.

Conger writes to her parents about her dating life and the men who have "crushes on her." Concurrently, she addresses her doubts about the value of marriage and her desire to continue her education. She tells her mother that she is jealous of another WAC who enrolls in flight clerk school. Although unable to visit family in New Jersey or to their summer home in Vermont, Conger takes "marvelous" weekend trips to San Francisco, Bolinas, Sausalito, San Rafael, and Marin. Among other topics, Conger consults her parents on financial matters, particularly with purchasing health insurance (#1.6) and calculating transportation costs for booking flights to return to the East Coast (#1.8). She asks her parents to send things to the base, such as pearls, bathing cap, stamps, Thyroid pills, money, clothes, and shoes.

Conger also adopts a dog named Excelsior. When she is no longer allowed to keep the dog at the base, she asks her parents if they'd be interested in taking Excelsior. Letters also mention dieting, quitting smoking, and complaints about a vulgar doctor. On one occasion, Conger contracts fever blisters on her mouth, and claims she "looks like an Ubangi" (#1.6). Conger learns that her brother gets discharged from the Army before she does. While waiting to be discharged, she is happy to deliver the news of V-J day to her parents (#1.8) and reports on her Good Conduct Medal (#1.9).

The collection also includes Conger's resume and professional and military documents. Several photographs of Conger, mostly in her WAC uniform, are also included. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Mary Janeway Conger was born March 29, 1923, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Katherine Abeel Janeway Conger and John Conklin Conger. Mary J. Conger attended private schools, including the Baldwin School; then matriculated at Douglass College, the women's college of Rutgers University. In 1944, she left college to join the Women's Army Corps (WACs). Conger served at Hamilton Field Air Base in California; she worked as an ambulance dispatcher, sending drivers to meet planes carrying soldiers wounded in the Pacific. After the war, she returned to college at the New School in New York, earning a BA in 1951. Conger later attended the University of Indiana, earning master's degrees in both Philosophy (1953) and Social Work (1955). Conger worked as a social worker in Indiana, Illinois, and New York before settling in Vermont, where her family had a summer home. Her social work career included programs dedicated to family and play therapy; eventually her work in Vermont centered on working with patients with addiction, particularly alcohol addiction. She was active in the Episcopal Church, and her faith led to her involvement in civil rights and human rights causes. She died on September 2, 2010.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2019-M94, 2019-M161

The papers of Mary Janeway Conger were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alison Safford in June and October 2019.

Processing Information

Processed: June 2019

By: Grace Yun and Jenny Gotwals.

Updated and additional material added: October 2019

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.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Alice Jeanette Ward 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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