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World War II Special Collections Resources

Resources related to World War II in Smith College Special Collections

World War II in Smith College Special Collections

Materials related to the World War II are found throughout Smith College Special Collections. Smith College Special Collections comprises the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, the Smith College Archives and the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History.

The lists below are not comprehensive, but are intended to help you start your research.

Read the “Scope and Contents” and the "Biographical/Historical" notes in the finding aids for more information on each individual collection.

Smith College Institutional Records

Below the record groups are briefly described. For more extensive and detailed information, reading the following sections of the finding aid: Scope and Contents, Biographical / Historical, Additional Description.

War Service collection

These records contain correspondence, reports, news articles, publications, and photographs, related to the service of Smith College students in World War I and World War II.

WAVES files

Records of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services), Smith College's unit of the women's Naval Reserve. These files contain books, broadcasts, correspondence, printed materials, press releases, newspaper clippings, memoranda, notes and photographs.

Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files

Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files documents his official duties as the fourth President of Smith College (1940-1949). The collection includes correspondence, newspaper articles, and memorabilia. Materials document the running of the College and the relationship of the Office of the President with the various academic departments and committees. Of interest is correspondence about the 75th anniversary celebration of the college; committee work including Trustee, faculty and administrative committees; the Junior Year Abroad program at Smith; and correspondence with U.S. government officials concerning the WAVES program on campus. (see also Herbert John Davis personal papers)

Classes of 1941-1950 records

Students from certain years in this class group, 1941 to 1950, experienced collateral effects of World War II as they went about their days on campus. These records consist of notes, examinations, papers, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, and songbooks created and collected by individual class members as well as records of their class as a whole made by class officers. Additionally these records include an array of reunion materials. 

Lazarus Center for Career Development records

Previously known as the Vocational Office, Navy recruitment, including for codebreakers, operated out of this office. The first career center at Smith began as the Teachers Registration Bureau. It has gone through many iterations since this time and currently holds the title of the Lazarus Center for Career Development. The collection is comprised of general office records, fellowship records, recommendations to/for individual students, World War II service opportunity referrals, and Vocational Committee Board of Counselors surveys, questionnaires, and notes.

Buildings records

The Buildings records focus on the College's buildings, both extant and demolished. This collection interprets the term "building" loosely, and includes information not only about the buildings themselves, but also about what occurred / occurs in the buildings, especially where student residences are concerned. Much of Smith College student life is and has long been centered in the residential houses, and so a buildings file may contain annual group photographs of house residents, student rosters, house government material, and information on house traditions, in addition to the architectural information, ownership history, and photographs of the building itself.

Grounds subject files

The Grounds subject files contain information relating to the history, composition, and physical features of the Smith College campus, including the Botanic Gardens and the Genetic Experiment Station.

Association of Former Juniors in France Records

The Association of Former Juniors in France records consist of files relating to club activity from 1936 to 1972. Types of materials include: correspondence, information pertaining to the founding of the French House, invitations, photographs, meeting minutes and notices, records of World War II relief efforts, membership lists, organization and officer information, scholarship records, and publications.

Student Demonstrations collection

The Student Demonstrations collection includes documents that relate to demonstrations and protests conducted by Smith College students from 1933 to present. These activities include rallies and campaigns regarding national and local issues, ranging from opposition to U.S. wars abroad to conflicts of racism on the Smith campus. Types of materials include academic papers, news clippings, newsletters, photographs, protest signs, and student diaries.

Individuals: Smith Faculty and Staff

Helene and Michele Cantarella papers

Michele Cantarella was professor of Italian literature and language at Smith from 1929 to 1964. His wife, Helene, became an instructor in the French Department at Smith in 1929, then, after World War II, was coordinator of films shown to Smith students and the public. Their papers contain both of their personal and professional material before and during their years at Smith College. Files pertaining to their anti-fascist activities, their work for the government during World War II, and work within departments at Smith are part of the collection.

Herbert John Davis personal papers

The Herbert John Davis personal papers are primarily related to Davis' personal life. Types of material include correspondence; speeches; publications; photographs; newspaper articles; and memorabilia. Although the chronological focus of the collection is Davis' presidential years, the records pertain to life outside his presidential duties. (see also Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files)

B. Elizabeth Horner papers

B. Elizabeth “Betty” Horner was an educator, biologist, advocate for women and science, and a professor at Smith College where she spent her entire professional life. Horner taught cryptanalysis courses during the war. Her papers document her personal and professional life, especially her research on Australian rodents and her correspondence with colleagues, professional organizations, mentees and students, family, and friends.

Myra Louise Johnson

Faculty biographical file (CA-MS-01008)
Assistant Professor of Zoology. Part of the code breaking Navy Project during World War II on Smith College's campus.

Elisabeth Koffka papers

Smith College Professor of History. Contains correspondence of Elisabeth Koffka, much of which addresses trips and travel. Other frequently addressed topics include Kurt Koffka, Elisabeth's history courses, families and friends in their social circle (the Nielsons and Koehlers), Koffka's feelings about travel, isolation, and rural America, and in later letters, news and events relating to World War II

Marjory Porritt Nield

Faculty Biographical file (CA-MS-01008)
Vocational Secretary. Part of the code breaking Navy Project during World War II on Smith College's campus.

Mildred Louise Boie Saunders papers

Poet; editor; professor of English at Smith College; and Red Cross worker, World War II. Collection is primarily personal correspondence, including a lifetime of letters to her twin sister, which read as a personal journal and document her career, romances, family relations, experiences in psychoanalysis, and world events. Other material includes photographs; writings; a travel diary from a trip to Europe; and reports to the Red Cross from Italy and Egypt during World War II.

Vivian Trombetta Walker

Faculty biographical file (CA-MS-01008)
Botany Instructor. Part of the code breaking Navy Project during World War II on Smith College's campus.

Ruth E. Young Papers

Smith Professor of Italian. Contains correspondence, news clippings, photographs, publications, pamphlets, Rations books, curriculum vitae, certificates, invitations, and pamphlets and recollections of World Student Relief

Individuals: Smith Alumnae

Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence papers

Smith College Class of 1883. President of the Alumnae Association. Contains correspondence, diaries, journals, news clippings, photographs and publications documenting the life of Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence (Clarke). Correspondence and journals dating past 1939 describe life during World War II, both in the United States and also abroad in Surrey, England.

Morrow family papers

Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, Smith College Class of 1896. Author; Philanthropist; President, Smith College. Collection consists primarily of the papers of Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, although her husband Dwight W. Morrow, and daughters Elisabeth Reeve Morrow (Morgan); Anne Spencer Morrow (Lindbergh); and Constance Cutter Morrow (Morgan), and extended family members are also represented. The papers include personal and professional papers and material pertaining to Smith College. Correspondence is extensive. Of interest are documents describing Elizabeth Cutter Morrow's World War II activities.

Charlotte B. DeForest papers

Smith College Class of 1901. Missionary. President, Kobe College. Papers include correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, clippings, awards and citations, and writings. Personal and professional correspondence includes letters from friends and colleagues in Japan, mostly relating to her work at Kobe College. During World War II, DeForest returned to the United States and taught Japanese at Pomona College. She was also a counselor at the Manzanar Relocation Center, a Japanese internment camp in California, 1941-45.

Azalia Emma Peet papers

Smith College Class of 1910. Missionary and teacher. The Azalia Peet papers consist of photographs, correspondence, memorabilia, and speeches. Of particular interest in the collection diaries and letters written by Peet from Japan, and from the Japanese American internment camps in the United States during World War II. Her early diaries reflect her home life and her personal struggle to come to terms with her vocation.

Helen Begley Nixon papers

Smith College Class of 1921. Red Cross official; Relief worker, World War II; Refugee relief organizer, Vietnam; and President, International Women's Association, Vietnam. The papers document the lives of women in Korea; in Germany after World War II; and in Vietnam, as well as orphanages, and refugees. Material includes correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia; approximately one quarter of the collection is in German, and some is in Vietnamese, Korean, and French.

Helen Paull Kirkpatrick papers

Smith College Class of 1931. She became a foreign correspondent at the beginning of World War II. Her papers contain news clippings, correspondence, and photographs documenting the student experience. It also contains her professional work while at Smith College as Assistant to the president, 1953-1955.

Frances Rich papers

Smith College Class of 1931. Sculptor; Director, Smith College Public Relations; and Officer, United States Naval Reserve, World War II. Focuses primarily on her career as a sculptor, with a small amount of material on her work (as student and staff) at Smith College and in U.S. Navy. Material includes correspondence, biographical articles, research files, clippings, exhibit catalogs (sculptures of notable people), posters, scrapbooks, and photographs.

Helen C. Bragdon papers

Smith College Class of 1933. Actress; Playwright; Women's Army Corps, World War II. The Helen Bragdon Papers include letters to her family from her basic training in Florida, her stateside service in Texas and Georgia, and overseas tours of duty in Australia, New Guinea, Netherlands East Indies, and the Philippines. Additional materials include correspondence, clippings, photographs, and programs related to her theater activities.

Dudley Harmon papers

Smith College Class of 1934. Journalist and war correspondent. Papers consist of correspondence, writings, biographical material, photographs and memorabilia. Includes letters home during World War II; her coverage of the Nuremberg trials and the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva; and her letters and journal from Brazzaville, French Equatorial Africa. Also included are unpublished stories, radio broadcasts, two scrapbooks and letters to her father.

Margaret Myers Dunn papers

Smith College Class of 1937. She graduated with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in German. She traveled through Europe on graduation and later married Richard Byam Dunn at the end of 1938. Richard Dunn was a Williams College undergraduate who later attended Harvard Law and courted Margaret since 1935. They wrote frequent letters back and forth throughout their courtship, and during World War II while Richard was stationed on the USS Steinaker. Margaret remained at home in Newton, MA, dedicating her time to maintaining the household and raising their young family.

Jean Louise Burnham papers

Smith College Class of 1939. Her papers contain biographical material, correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia. The bulk of the collection consists of several hundred letters between Burnham and her husband, Albert Robertson Gray, between 1939 and 1945. They contain considerable detail about the life of a sergeant on the base and about his work in the finance office. The bulk of Jean's letters to Al are from the period after he left for Europe in 1944. Hers also relate many daily activities as well as her emotions during their long separation. Many of Jean's are V-Mail (Victory mail) letters. Some letters also convey the practical problems of life in wartime and mention events in the wider world.

Trudy Feiss papers

Smith College Class of 1941. The collection contains the personal papers, artworks, photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings of Gertrude "Trudy" Feiss, illustrator and artist. Particularly well represented are Feiss' time at Smith and her service in the Marines.

Gloria W. Heath papers

Smith College Class of 1943. The materials in the Gloria W. Heath papers document Heath's career in aerospace, her work as a WASP during World War II, and her connection to Smith College.

Caroline Dwight Bain papers

Smith College Class of 1944. This collection consists of Caroline Bain's personal papers including travel journals, correspondence, photographs and other biographical materials. Of special note are the letters Bain wrote to her parents while she was working for the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington, DC, 1944-1945.

Townsend-O'Brien-Hoffheimer family papers

Smith College Classes of 1911 and 1941. Professor, languages; Naturalist; Civic volunteer; Army Intelligence officer, World War II; Author; Teacher. The Townsend-O'Brien-Hoffheimer Family papers consists primarily of correspondence between these three generations of women and other family; diaries of Smith College years for both mother and daughter. After their Smith graduations Margaret Townsend O'Brien II (Class of 1911) earned a Ph.D. from Harvard and taught languages and Charlotte Townsend O'Brien Hoffheimer (Class of 1941) served as a WAC officer in World War II, deciphering Japanese code.

Organizations (Not Smith-Affiliated)

YWCA of the U.S.A. 

The YWCA was responsible for many programs, both international and domestic, during World War II. To learn more about searching the YWCA records in Smith College Special Collections, check out the YWCA Special Collections Resources research guide