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League of Women Shoppers Records, 1937 - 2001 (Bulk: 1937-1944)
1 box (.25 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 328

Abstract:
Consumer advocacy organization and labor reform advocacy organization. The purposes of the League of Women Shoppers were threefold: to investigate the working conditions in stores and factories; to organize consumers to support union organizing; and to protect and improve American living standards through grassroots. A few members represented include Alice Lesser Shepard, Lucille Montgomery, and Jessie Lloyd O'Connor. Materials include constitution and by-laws, correspondence, congressional committee hearing reports, news bulletins, and assorted publications.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of this collection is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Historical Note
Christmas card sold by the League of Women Shoppers, 1942

Christmas card sold by the
League of Women Shoppers, 1942

Twenty socially conscious women who wished to use their power as consumers to obtain justice for workers founded the League of Women Shoppers (LWS) in New York City in June 1935. By 1937, the New York group claimed thousands of members and established branches in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Newark, New Jersey, and Columbus, Ohio. Although the LWS was officially non-partisan and, according to its constitution, "non-political," many members, including Jessie Lloyd O'Connor, Lillian Hellman, and Freda Kirchwey, had ties to other progressive and labor organizations. The official purposes of the League were threefold: to investigate the working conditions in the stores they patronized and the factories that produced the goods they consumed; to educate and organize consumers to support union organizing and to press for better wages and working conditions for workers who produced goods and provided services; and to protect and improve American living standards through both grassroots actions, such as boycotts and buyers' cooperatives, and legal regulation, such as rent and price controls and the protection of wages. In keeping with its unofficial progressive bent and political agenda, the LWS also supported other social justice causes, including civil rights for African-Americans and equal pay for women workers.

The Dies Committee branded the League of Women Shoppers a subversive organization in 1939. Nevertheless, League members continued to participate in a variety of consumer and union organizing campaigns through the early years of the 1940s. When the U.S. became formally involved in World War II, the League expanded its program to include efforts to support rationing and discourage black market sales of goods in short supply. In 1944, League members-whose numbers had decreased significantly from the late 1930s-worked for Franklin Roosevelt's reelection to a fourth term, but by 1945 the LWS engaged in fewer and fewer activities and soon faded out of existence.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The League of Women Shoppers Records consist of .25 linear feet dating from 1937-2001. These materials are far from a complete archive of the organization, but rather a selection of materials collected by one member. The bulk of the records date from 1937 through 1945 and focus on the national office of the League and its Chicago branch, though there are also a few records from Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Newark, New Jersey. The documents reveal the history of the League of Women Shoppers, its goals, and the activities it conducted to promote them. Types of materials include agendas, correspondence, minutes, notes, printed material, and testimony.

Consumer education, union organizing, workplace conditions, and popular front activism are some of the major subjects addressed in the collection. The records offer insight into the goals and activities of a typical popular front-era progressive group that organized women on the basis of their roles as wives, mothers, and consumers and aimed to improve conditions for women and for the working-class as a whole. In addition to documenting the League of Women Shoppers itself, the papers document major twentieth century historical trends such as the achievements of the industrial union movement in the 1930s, and the increasing attention devoted to race and gender issues in U.S. politics during and after World War II.

This collection is organized into two series:


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of this collection is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

League of Women Shoppers Records, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The League of Women Shoppers Records were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1945 by Jessie Lloyd O'Connor, who had been active in the Chicago branch of the League.

Processing Information

Processed by Kate Weigand, 2001.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
(1938-44)
.1 linear ft.

This series provides an overview of the League of Women Shoppers' national office and the affiliate organizations in Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. It is arranged in four subseries: Constitution and by-laws, National Board, National Executive Committee, Membership Committee meetings, and Local affiliates. The National Board material dates from 1938 through1944 and includes agendas, minutes, correspondence, and memoranda. Similarly, the material from the Local affiliates dates from 1938 through 1944 and includes agendas, minutes, and correspondence.

(1937-2001)
.15 linear ft.

This series contains material that documents the activities undertaken by the League of Women Shoppers at the national and local levels between 1937 and 1944, and biographical material about two members of local League branches. It is organized into four subseries: Publicity, Testimony, Members, and Miscellaneous. Publicity, the largest subseries, dates from 1938 to 1945 and consists of leaflets, newsletters, pamphlets, notes, lists, and miscellaneous printed material, organized chronologically. Members includes biographical material about Alice Lesser Shepard, a member of the Eastchester, New York branch, and Lucille Montgomery, a progressive philanthropist, who was a key figure in the Washington, D.C. branch of the LWS.

Contents List
SERIES I. ADMINISTRATION
(1938-44)


Constitution and by-laws: agenda, drafts, and finished documents,
1939, 1930s

Box 1: folder 1
National Board



Agendas,
1938

Box 1: folder 2
Minutes,
1938-43, n.d.

Box 1: folder 3
Correspondence and memoranda,
1938-44

Box 1: folder 4
National Executive Committee: minutes,
1938-42

Box 1: folder 5
National Membership meetings: minutes,
1943-44

Box 1: folder 6
Local affiliates



Agenda,
1938

Box 1: folder 7
Minutes,
1938

Box 1: folder 8
Correspondence,
1938-44

Box 1: folder 9
SERIES II. ACTIVITIES AND MEMBERS
(1937-2001)


Publicity



Leaflets,
1938-45, n.d.

Box 1: folder 10
Newsletters,
1938-43, n.d.

Box 1: folder 11
Pamphlets: drafts and printed material,
1937-44

Box 1: folder 12
Miscellaneous: lists, notes, and printed material,
n.d.

Box 1: folder 13
Testimony,
1944, n.d.

Box 1: folder 14
Members: biographical notes and list, cir 00-01
ca 1940, 20

Box 1: folder 15

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Consumer education--United States--History--Sources
  • Consumers' leagues--United States--History--Sources
  • Labor movement--History--20th century--Sources
  • Labor unions--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • League of Women Shoppers--History--Sources
  • O'Connor, Jessie Lloyd, 1904-
  • Popular fronts--United States--History--20th century
  • Work environment--United States--History--20th century--Sources


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