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President's Commission on the Status of Women  

This guide is an introduction to materials related to the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
Last Updated: Dec 17, 2014 URL: http://guides.library.harvard.edu/schlesinger_presidents_commission_on_the_status_of_women Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Table of Contents

This guide is an introduction to the Schlesinger Library's holdings relating to the President's Commission on the Status of Women. The lists of manuscript/archival materials and published reports are meant to help you begin your research, but they are not complete lists of relevant materials.

The Commission was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to examine the needs and rights of women and to make recommendations for "the diminution of barriers that result in waste, injustice, and frustration."  Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Commission until her death in 1962. The Commission was aided by seven committees: the Committee on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee on Education, the Committee on Federal Employment, the Committee on Home and Community, the Committee on Private Employment, the Committee on Protective Labor Legislation, and the Committee on Social Insurance and Taxes. Each Committee compiled a report, which it submitted to the Commission, containing a summary of the Committee's findings and recommendations. The Commission was disbanded in October 1963 after the final report was submitted to the President. 

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Manuscript / Archival Materials

  • Commissions on the Status of Women Collection
    The Report of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, issued in October 1963, spurred the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Labor to spearhead the creation of state commissions on the status of women. By 1966, 45 states had commissions studying the condition of women within their jurisdictions, and by 1976, there were 82 local commissions, primarily in cities or highly urbanized counties. The collection is organized alphabetically by state and includes state and occasionally local commission reports, minutes, membership lists, brochures, newsletters, and task force and conference material.
  • President's Commission on the Status of Women, Records 
    The collection contains minutes, transcripts, reports, correspondence, and press releases of the Commission. Included are background, interim, and final reports, and agendas and minutes of meetings of the Commission's subcommittees for home and community, protective labor legislation, education, social insurance and taxes, civil and political rights, federal employment policies and practices, and private employment.
    The J.F.K. Presidential Library and Museum also holds archival material on the President's Commission on the Status of Women.

Members of the President's Commission and Related Committees

Listed below are collections of individual members of the President's Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW),  individual members of the committees of the PCSW, and women closely involved with the PCSW.

  • Black Women Oral History Project
    This project contains interviews of 72 African-American women who had made significant contributions to American society in the first half of the twentieth century. The interviews discuss personal background, significant influences affecting choice of primary career or activity, professional and voluntary accomplishments, union activities, and the ways in which being black and a woman affected options and the choices made.  
     
    Of particular note is an interview of Dorothy Irene Height, a member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Catherine East
    Government official and feminist activist, Catherine East served in a senior capacity on all Presidential advisory commissions on women from 1962 through 1977, conducting research, and preparing position papers, publications, and reports on a wide range of women's issues. Hailed by Betty Friedan as the "midwife to the birth of the women's movement," East served as a staff member on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women, 1962-1963; executive secretary of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women and the Citizens' Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1963-1974; and deputy coordinator of the secretariat for the National Committee for the Observance of International Women's Year, 1975-1976.
     
  • Mary O. Eastwood 
    As technical secretary to the civil and political rights committee of President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), Eastwood researched decisions involving women and the Fourteenth Amendment, and became increasingly interested in the women's movement. With Pauli Murray she wrote the highly influential article "Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII," which appeared in the Georgetown Law Review (34, December 1965). She was very active in the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW); a board member of Human Rights for Women (HRW), an organization formed in 1968 to help finance sex discrimination litigation and research projects on women's issues; and a member of Federally Employed Women (FEW), a group that sought an end to sex discrimination in the federal government.
  • Katherine Pollak Ellickson 
    Labor economist Katherine Pollak Ellickson served as executive secretary of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, 1961-1963. Born in Yonkers, N.Y., she graduated from Vassar College, worked as an economist for the National Labor Relations Board (1938-1940) and the Social Security Board (1940-1941), as associate director of research at the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1935-1937, 1942-1955) and as assistant director of the social security department of the AFL-CIO (1955- ).
  • Betty Friedan 
    Feminist, activist, and author Betty Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women, and served as its first president. Her first book, The Feminine Mystique, was published in 1963. Afterward, Friedan quickly became a leading advocate for change in the status of women in the United States.

    Of particular note are folders 1750-1751, which contain Friedan's copy of the Report from the President's Commission on the Status of Women, her notes on the report and a letter from Esther Peterson.
  • Evelyn Harrison 
    The first woman to graduate from the College of Engineering at the University of Maryland (1932), Evelyn Harrison was one of the highest ranking career women in the U.S. federal government during the 1960s and 1970s. As deputy director of the Bureau of Policies and Standards in the U.S. Civil Service Commission, she was a government spokesperson for equal opportunity for women and an advocate of the advancement of women within the federal service. In 1961 she assisted Eleanor Roosevelt and Esther Peterson in organizing the President's Commission on the Status of Women. She was also an alternate member on the Interdepartmental Commission on the Status of Women. In 1966 she was named assistant to the chairman for Federal Women's Programs, a newly created position to advise Civil Service Commission chair, John W. Macy.
  • Mary Dublin Keyserling
    Economist, government administrator, and director of the Women's Bureau (1964-1969), Keyserling was born in New York City in 1910, graduated from Barnard College (1930), studied at the London School of Economics, and became executive director of the National Consumers' League in 1938. After her marriage to Leon Keyserling in 1940, she was a personal advisor to Eleanor Roosevelt in the Office of Civilian Defense, an economist in the Foreign Economic Administration (1943), and chief of the Special Programs Division of the Office of International Trade of the Department of Commerce (1946-1949). In 1961-1963 she served on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Pauli Murray 
    Murray entered Howard University Law School in the fall of 1941, graduated in 1944. In the late 1940s she opened a law office in New York City, where she worked until she was hired as an associate attorney in the law offices of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in 1956. In the 1960s Murray served on a study committee for the President's Commission on the Status of Women. 

    Of particular note is Series II, subseries C: Work-President's Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Maurine Brown Neuberger 
    U.S. Senator from Oregon, member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, and Chairman of the Citizens' Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1966-1968.
  • Esther Peterson
    Active in the fields of labor, education, women's rights, and consumer affairs, Peterson was involved in union organizing, worker education, and labor and consumer legislation lobbying. She was executive vice chairman of the President's Commission on the Status of Women (1961-1963).
  • Marguerite Rawalt 
    Attorney and feminist Marguerite Rawalt was active in the National Organization for Women and chair of its legal committee (1966-1969), founder and treasurer of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, and an attorney for and president of the Women's Equity Action League. In 1961 she was appointed to the President's Commission on the Status of Women and subsequently served on other commissions, such as the Citizens' Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the District of Columbia Commission on the Status of Women. She was active in the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and was a founding member of Women United and the ERA Ratification Council.
  • Collection consists of 25 audiotapes and transcripts of interviews, conducted by Rupp and Taylor as research for their book, with women who worked for women's rights during the mid-twentieth century in the United States. Included are interviews of Catherine East, Mary Eastwood, Margaret Hickey, Pauli Murray and Marguerite Rawalt, all of whom were involved with the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Somerville and Howorth family, Additional papers 
    Lucy Somerville Howorth was a lawyer and also a representative in the Mississippi Legislature, has been associated with the Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Jackson, Miss., and Washington, D.C., and the National and International Federations of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the American Association of University Women, Women in World Affairs, and the Assembly of Women's Organizations for National Security. In 1927, she was appointed U.S. Commissioner for the Southern District of Mississippi. She was a member of the Committee on Federal Employment for the President's Commission on the Status of Women.

    Of particular note from this collection are folders 179-186 on the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project 
    This project contains interviews of 39 women in appointive and civil service positions in various departments and offices of the U.S. federal government.
    Of particular note is an interview of Mary Dublin Keyserling, a member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
 

Exhibit: The President's Commission on the Status of Women at 50

The Commission was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to examine the needs and rights of women and to make recommendations for "the diminution of barriers that result in waste, injustice, and frustration." Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Commission until her death in 1962. The Commission was aided by seven committees: The Commission on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee on Education, the Committee on Federal Employment, the Committee on Home and Community, the Committee on Private Employment, the Committee on Protective Labor Legislation, and the Committee on Social Insurance and Taxes. Each Committee compiled a report, which it submitted to the Commission, containing a summary of the Committee's findings and recommendations. The Commission was disbanded in October 1963 after the final report was submitted to the President. 

Click here to view the exhibit online.

Published Reports

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